A midfield dilemma for Klopp – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Man City

The biggest game of the season thus far awaits against Man City on Sunday, where Jurgen Klopp has key decisions to make in his defence and midfield.

Liverpool made six changes for the midweek victory over Genk as a mixed focus on fresh legs and rhythm came to the fore with the next challenge in mind.

It is one which sees the Reds pitted against Pep Guardiola’s Man City in a decisive Premier League clash, where a nine-point buffer could be established with Liverpool’s 11th win of the campaign.

The senior figures rested on Tuesday will return to the fold, but Klopp’s greatest selection headache remains in the form of his midfield contingent.

Fabinho is a certain starter having been protected against Aston Villa with this game in mind, but the conundrum remains over who will partner the Brazilian in a fixture where the battle in the middle of the park holds great significance.

Here’s a look at how the Reds could look to lineup for the all-important clash at Anfield.

 

Team News

Unlike City who have a plethora of injuries to contend with, Klopp is facing no new concerns throughout his squad.

Joel Matip and Xherdan Shaqiri are continuing their recovery from respective knee and calf injuries, with the duo expected to return following the international break.

Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, will be back in contention for a starting berth having overcome an illness which ruled him out of the victory over Genk.

He will, however, face a fight for his position in the side as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has thrown down the gauntlet in recent weeks having notched four goals in as many games, providing the attacking impetus which the Reds have been craving.

Liverpool’s No. 15 had taken a knock to his ankle against Genk, but he trained as normal throughout the week and is line for his fourth start in five games.

The middle of the park presents the biggest decision for Klopp, who also has Gini Wijnaldum, James Milner and Naby Keita as further options to consider alongside Fabinho.

GENK, BELGIUM - Wednesday, October 23, 2019: Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (L) and Virgil van Dijk during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC at the KRC Genk Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As aforementioned, the midweek rotation afforded the likes of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Andy Robertson the chance to lessen their workload as they each featured off the bench deep into the game.

They will all be expected to return to the fold, with the former pair linking back up with Mohamed Salah and the latter taking his place back on the left side of defence – an area of the field which holds the second decisive decision for the manager.

Dejan Lovren was an unused sub in midweek as Joe Gomez took up his place alongside Virgil van Dijk, but having taken the mantle in the Premier League in the absence of Matip the Croatian is the more likely of the two to lineup against City.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Man City

SOUTH BEND, INDIANA, USA - Friday, July 19, 2019: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' walks out with mascots before a friendly match between Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund at the Notre Dame Stadium on day four of the club's pre-season tour of America. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A return to the starting XI who overcame Tottenham and a single change to the side fielded against Villa is a likely move by Klopp.

It would see the regulars in Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Lovren, Van Dijk and Robertson make up the back five once more in the league, while a return to the tried and trusted midfield combination could be on the cards.

Fabinho, who failed to start in either game against City last season, will be the sole change from the win last weekend and will prove key in Liverpool’s hopes of securing all three points.

The Brazilian could then be flanked by Henderson and Wijnaldum to offer greater protection and control against a fluid City outfit – a dependable choice in the big games for Klopp which may yet get another run out on Sunday.

It would mean both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita are overlooked, despite their recent upturn in form.

Finally, Firmino, Mane and Salah will be tasked with leading the attack, where the latter two will be eyeing a place on the scoreboard for the third time in the four meetings against City at Anfield:

Alisson; Trent, Lovren, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Mane, Firmino


Alternatively, the boss could look to take the more adventurous option by opting for Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has previous with City having scored twice and set up another across the two meetings on home soil in 2017/18.

The inclusion of Liverpool’s No. 15 would inject energy into midfield and see a higher press deployed, but it would come at the price of Henderson’s spot in the side, who has been hot and cold in recent weeks.

Wijnaldum would then occupy the remaining position alongside Fabinho in a midfield trio which would certainly present a challenge for a City side hit by injury in their defensive third.

Meanwhile, on the Reds’ own defensive front Klopp could put his faith in Gomez over Lovren, restoring the centre-back partnership with Van Dijk for the first time in Premier League since the opening game of the season against Norwich.

Fellow defensive regulars and the prolific front three will all take centre stage, where Liverpool could line up like this:

Alisson; Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Mane, Firmino


The manager stated in his press-conference that Liverpool “cannot only be offensive” they must also be brave and while it would be a bold move for Klopp to put his faith in Oxlade-Chamberlain, it would not be a surprising one.

The England international has proven he can be the man to wreak havoc in the half-spaces and link the midfield to the attack, but if a more conservative approach is taken from the off then the Reds should still have enough on home territory to overcome City.