9 places assured, 2 up for grabs? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Man City

2 January 2019

Jurgen Klopp faces some big decisions with his tactical approach, formation and selection for Liverpool’s showdown with title rivals Man City.


The eyes of the football world hone in on the Etihad Stadium on Thursday night for the biggest game of the Premier League season.

It’s too early to be deemed a ‘title decider’ but Klopp and his team will know how significant victory would be, while avoiding defeat would also leave the Reds in a healthy position.

Klopp heads to Manchester with an extremely interesting team selection on his hands, with big calls to make with the formation and in particular the set-up of his midfield and attack.

Here’s how we think Liverpool’s starting XI could look for the top-of-the-table showdown.

 

Team News

Klopp has received a timely injury boost to further strengthen his squad for a crucial night.

The boss confirmed in his pre-match press conference that James Milner is available after two games out with a hamstring issue, and the vice-captain is set to be involved.

The rest remains as before, with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip side-lined along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Liverpool will be at full-strength having had adequate rest time between games and certain Reds will hope to force their way into the starting team.

Jordan Henderson is pushing for a recall after dropping to the bench for the Arsenal demolition, with Naby Keita another midfield option.

The likes of Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge are all available and will hope for inclusion among the substitutes.

 

The Potential Lineups

Gini Wijnaldum (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Most of Klopp’s starting XI picks itself, with questions marks only on the formation and the exact shape and selection of the midfield and attack.

The current first-choice defence will be in operation, with Alisson to be protected by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Dejan Lovren, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will start, while Gini Wijnaldum, who is in the form of his Anfield career right now, is sure to take one midfield spot.

Those nine places are straightforward but the remaining two pose the big dilemma.

It ultimately hinges on the formation, which will be decided by how Klopp wants to approach the game.

Some would deem it as a brave move, but Klopp could stick with the attack-minded 4-2-3-1 system that has catapulted Liverpool to top spot and take the game to the hosts.

Fabinho would likely be given the nod to fill the remaining midfield role alongside Wijnaldum given how the pair have struck a great partnership – meaning Henderson misses out.

It would then come down to a straight choice between Shaqiri and Keita for the last space in the attacking midfield unit supporting Salah.

It could be that Klopp goes with the Guinean from a tucked-in left side berth for more control, keeping the Swiss game-changer ready for another blistering impact if needed.

The pressure for victory is on City, while the aim for the Reds will be to at least maintain the current seven-point advantage over Pep Guardiola’s side.

With this in mind, Klopp could start slightly more cautiously and switch back to 4-3-3, with the aim of extra midfield security and greater defensive protection.

The same nine first-choice picks will all remain, but the two spare shirts could be filled by two different faces to mirror the more solid approach.

Henderson could enter into his usual holding role, with the captain able to provide fresh legs for what will be a relentless 90 minutes.

Klopp talked up Milner’s importance and “influence” which suggests the vice-captain could instantly start, which would see the high-energy, experienced and tried-and-trusted trio deployed.

It’s difficult to predict which way Klopp will go with his selection and tactical set-up for a game of such importance, in which a draw would be a positive result.

Crucially, both lineups illustrate the flexibility Klopp has to keep Guardiola guessing, which could prove decisive in the hunt for what would be a priceless three points.

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