Liverpool are set to field a significantly stronger lineup as the Premier League returns on Saturday with a trip to newly promoted Sheffield United to come.
Jurgen Klopp made 11 changes as the Reds won 2-0 at MK Dons in midweek, with Joe Gomez, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita all starting.
It was a positive exercise, as Milner scored one and assisted one and a host of youngsters gained crucial experience, including full debuts for Caoimhin Kelleher, Harvey Elliott and Rhian Brewster.
However, it is unlikely any of the 11 to start in Milton Keynes will be retained for the weekend’s trip to Bramall Lane, with full rotation expected.
Speaking at Melwood on Friday, Klopp confirmed both Divock Origi and Sadio Mane had returned to full training and there were “no issues” for the pair.
He is provided a positive update on Alisson‘s recovery, with the plan being that the No. 1 rejoins the squad at Melwood on Sunday, which could see him back earlier than expected.
This rules the Brazilian out in Sheffield, however, with Adrian set to take over from Kelleher despite the Irishman’s impressive debut at Stadium MK.
Milner suffered a knock in that third-round win but “should be good,” as did Curtis Jones, though there appear to be no further issues with Keita after his six-week layoff.
Xherdan Shaqiri remains absent, as do long-term absentees Nathaniel Clyne and Paul Glatzel.
Possible Lineups vs. the Blades
With Mane back after a dead leg forced him off at Chelsea, Klopp is able to field close to his strongest possible lineup as Liverpool pursue a seventh league win.
Adrian is a guaranteed starter, with the regular back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson likely to be restored ahead of the Spaniard.
In midfield, a night off for Fabinho in midweek should see him refreshed to take No. 6 duties from Lallana, while he should be joined by Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum.
This leaves Mane to start up front alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino:
Adrian; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino
The Reds’ squad in training on Thursday afternoon signposted the likely starters in South Yorkshire, and therefore it is highly unlikely the team news will be any different than the above come 11.30am on Saturday.
However, there is the small possibility Klopp takes caution with Mane after his injury at Stamford Bridge, and this could see Oxlade-Chamberlain make back-to-back starts.
The 26-year-old was substituted with eight minutes to spare in midweek, and as he nears full sharpness this could be another game that suits his brand of explosive attacking play.
With the midfield trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum firmly established, Oxlade-Chamberlain could be considered as an alternative to Mane on the left flank:
Adrian; Trent, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Ox, Firmino
That, however, should not be expected as Klopp prepares Liverpool in their bid to sustain a 100 percent start to the league campaign.
Kelleher, Gomez, Milner, Origi and two of Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita should settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench, with consistency key so far.