Jurgen Klopp faces a tough call for Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham: should he keep those who impressed at Genk, or restore those rested in midweek?
Klopp made five changes—albeit two were enforced—to his starting XI for the Champions League win.
The rewards were forthcoming in a long-overdue group stage away win, with some very strong performances by some of those handed a chance to shine.
It now presents a very interesting selection for Sunday’s clash with the Champions League runners-up—particularly with the midfield setup.
Klopp has a big decision to make in whether to recall those rested or hand those who shone in Genk a chance to build on their eye-catching displays.
The end result may even be a combination of the two, so here is how we think Liverpool’s starting XI could look at Anfield.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp confirmed Trent Alexander-Arnold “is fine” after illness kept him out of the Genk trip.
The No. 66 is therefore in line for an immediate return at right-back.
There was a scare with Andy Robertson being withdrawn early in midweek, but Klopp clarified that the left-back is fully fit and was only taken off for a deserved rest.
It’s not quite so good news on Joel Matip, who is a doubt due to a knee issue, but the Cameroonian will be monitored in the build up to kickoff.
It leaves Xherdan Shaqiri (calf) as the only guaranteed absentee and Klopp confirmed that “it will take a little bit of time” with the Swiss international.
Potential Recalls & Starting Hopefuls
Changes to replace the unavailable Alexander-Arnold and Matip were forced on Wednesday, but three other Reds came out of the starting XI and dropped to the bench.
Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Divock Origi were the trio to make way and each will be hoping for an immediate return to the starting team.
However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita will hope their impressive performances earn another chance in midfield.
Similarly, defensive stand-ins Dejan Lovren and James Milner will be eyeing consecutive starts but both are likely to drop back out.
Joe Gomez, who produced a positive cameo appearance in Europe, is in contention should another defensive reshuffle be required.
Old Trafford hero Adam Lallana is another option for Klopp to consider.
Liverpool’s XI vs. Spurs
A very attack-minded team did the job in Genk and it was great to see some of those given a chance to impress do just that—particularly Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita.
Naturally, it’s led to calls for both to retained against Spurs, but it seems much more likely that Klopp will block out the hype and move back to a more familiar selection.
Those who were rested and have recovered seem set to be recalled—which will hopefully include Matip.
If the centre-back is deemed fit, Liverpool will surely start with the tried-and-trusted—and incredibly successful—starting team we can all name.
Alexander-Arnold and Matip will be straight back in to rebuild the first-choice defence.
And the midfield would return to the solid-if-unspectacular triumvirate of Fabinho, Henderson and Wijnaldum, behind the usual front three:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Salah, Firmino
There remains the possibility that Matip misses out, meaning Lovren and Gomez will both be hoping for the nod from Klopp to step in.
The latter is perhaps better-placed to receive it after his confidence-boosting cameo in midweek and given he will be fresher too having played only half an hour in Belgium.
If Keita or Oxlade-Chamberlain are to be given a chance to build, it seems more likely to come with one of the two being integrated into the more defensively tuned midfield.
Klopp spoke of how the attack-minded pair left Fabinho too exposed at times and that is something the boss will not want to see against Spurs, making it unlikely that both start.
Most Reds fans would call for Oxlade-Chamberlain to continue, for his superior goal threat, but Keita may be the man retained.
The Guinean’s pressing, creativity and intelligence in the small details could sway that decision and could keep Henderson—who is struggling for form—on the bench:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Salah, Firmino
It would be nice to see Oxlade-Chamberlain or Keita given another outing to impress, which would in turn give the Reds an extra attacking dimension against a fragile Spurs side.
However, it seems most likely that Klopp will restore his usual lineup as Liverpool look to bounce back to winning ways in the Premier League and at least maintain the six-point gap over Man City.