Jurgen Klopp will be forced into making at least change to Liverpool’s starting team against Newcastle and another attacking reshuffle could follow.
There is no time to wallow after a harsh loss in Barcelona, with victory needed to ensure Premier League dreams avoid a similarly brutal blow.
A tough defeat at Camp Nou will have taken its toll both physically and mentally, and fresh legs and minds will need to be introduced where possible.
Klopp has options available and will be forced into making at least one change as a result of a disappointing injury blow to Naby Keita.
A more effective attacking plan could also be required and here is how Liverpool’s starting XI could look.
Injury Update & Possible Changes
Keita’s first season at Anfield is over as a result of a high-grade adductor injury which means “at least two months” out.
Roberto Firmino remains a fitness concern after playing only the last 15 minutes in Barcelona and the No. 9’s readiness to start seems questionable.
Adam Lallana is still out with a muscle injury, and Klopp faces an interesting call in navigating Keita’s absence.
Jordan Henderson will hope to be recalled, with James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum also eyeing a midfield berth.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s “perfect” comeback is now an even bigger boost, and Klopp said he will be considered.
The key issue for Klopp to solve will be how to reshape the attack should Firmino miss out.
Wijnaldum could be given a second run as the false nine, while Sadio Mane or Mohamed Salah could play as a central striker.
Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge will be hoping for a chance should an attacking reshuffle arrive.
Options for further rotation in defence are available, too.
Trent Alexander-Arnold looks set to be recalled at right-back after a night on the bench at Camp Nou; Dejan Lovren could come in at centre-back, while Joe Gomez will hope to keep his place.
The Potential Lineups
While Klopp will be forced into at least one change with Keita’s injury, filling that position is more likely to be one of a few alterations.
Klopp will freshen things up as the Reds refuse to give up the pursuit of silverware, and Firmino’s availability is key.
If the No. 9 is fit—as Klopp and every fan will hope—he will make an instant comeback to his central role.
This would free up Wijnaldum to move back into his preferred and much more effective box-to-box midfield position.
It would also leave Henderson and Milner battling for the place vacated by Keita, given Fabinho is a shoo-in for the defensive midfield spot.
The skipper should get the nod given he can bring an element of freshness after playing only an hour at Camp Nou, and with his superior form since his position switch.
One more change seems certain, with Alexander-Arnold to replace Gomez to provide greater attacking threat while ensuring the latter is sensibly managed:
Alisson; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino
Speaking in his press conference, Klopp didn’t sound too hopeful of Firmino’s availability to start at St James’ Park.
Should that be the case, Klopp will have to come up with a better plan to get by than the Wijnaldum false nine experiment which struggled at Camp Nou.
The best option would be to introduce Origi to the front three; deploying the Belgian on the left and moving Mane centrally, with Salah continuing on the right.
This setup has delivered previously—most spectacularly in the 5-0 rout of Watford while it also secured the vital away goal in Porto—with Mane and Origi both impressing in those positions.
Behind that reshaped attack a similarly new-look midfield could feature.
Klopp said Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return has come with perfect timing, and this could be the night he makes a long-awaited first start back.
A driving force from midfield is needed in Keita’s absence, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could provide it with the stability of Henderson and Fabinho alongside.
Klopp could rotate further in defence by introducing Lovren in place of Joel Matip:
Alisson; Trent, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Henderson; Salah, Origi, Mane
Hopefully Firmino will be fit to give the Reds a full-strength attack for a win-or-bust night.
The second lineup would still be strong enough to pick up three points, and that is what Liverpool must do to keep title hopes alive.