Right-back dilemma to inspire wing-back surprise? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Leicester

29 January 2019

Jurgen Klopp could solve Liverpool’s right-back problem by springing a tactical surprise against Leicester on Wednesday night.


The 11-day break to recover from an exhausting win over Crystal Palace has certainly been welcome and the Reds will be raring to resume the title charge.

The extended pause will have served Liverpool well—providing vital training ground time and most importantly a chance for the squad to refresh after a relentless two months.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t provided quite enough time for all injury concerns to recover and right-back options are in short supply for another must-win game.

Could this tempt Klopp into a change of tactical approach against Claude Puel’s side at Anfield?

 

Injury Update & Team News

Klopp provided a positive injury update in his pre-match press conference, easing concerns over a potential defensive crisis.

The boss confirmed that Virgil van Dijk has trained despite illness and will do so again on Tuesday, which means the Dutchman should be available.

Further good news is that Dejan Lovren “is fine” having recovered from a hamstring issue.

Gini Wijnaldum is also available after missing the Crystal Palace win last time out with a knee issue.

However, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez remain sidelined, while James Milner is suspended, which leaves Klopp with a dilemma at right-back.

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho—who has recovered from a slight hamstring issue and illness of his own—could deputise there.

Rafa Camacho made his Premier League debut in the Crystal Palace victory and is another option to consider.

The first-choice front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are all fit and available.

Naby Keita could keep his place alongside the main trio, but Xherdan Shaqiri will be hoping to join them.

 

The Potential Lineups

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 7, 2019: Liverpool's Rafael Camacho shoots during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The big question for Klopp ahead of kickoff comes in who to deploy at right-back out of the last men standing: Fabinho and Camacho.

Ultimately, the former’s experience playing the position at the top level for both Brazil and Monaco makes the Brazilian favourite to get the nod.

Therefore, Fabinho will surely deputise in an otherwise full-strength back four alongside Van Dijk, Joel Matip and Andy Robertson.

Fabinho’s deployment there makes the midfield a straightforward selection, opening it up for Wijnaldum to make an instant return alongside Jordan Henderson.

The only other real interesting call for Klopp comes in whether to hand Keita or Shaqiri the final attacking role alongside the forward trio.

Keita failed to impress when handed the chance against Crystal Palace and Shaqiri’s greater impact this season should see the Swiss international preferred from the start:

However, could the shortage of natural right-backs inspire a change in tactical system?

Speaking on his options in his press conference, Klopp lightheartedly teased to the media that he could play with wing-backs.

It could be that the German was simply throwing it out there to keep Leicester guessing, but it could also have been a subtle hint that he is considering a surprise setup.

Whatever the reason, Klopp at the very least has the options to do it—with Liverpool able to line up in an adventurous and flexible 3-4-3 formation.

Lovren could come in to play as the left-sided centre-back, with Van Dijk in the middle and Matip on the right.

Klopp may not yet fully trust Camacho at right-back, but the youngster could slot in at right wing-back, where he would have the security of Matip covering.

Fabinho can move into midfield alongside Henderson—allowing Wijnaldum to be eased in after injury—while Robertson would naturally operate at left-wing-back.

The attack of course picks itself and could feature in a variety of ways.

Not until the teams are announced an hour before kickoff on Wednesday night will we discover Klopp’s true intentions.

However, both lineups certainly boast the necessary quality and firepower to claim another vital three points to continue the title charge.

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