Salah to return as ‘big game’ XI comes to fore – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Napoli

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Liverpool welcome Napoli to Anfield in a decisive Champions League outing, where Jurgen Klopp could again turn to his ‘big game’ side.

The Reds were forced into one change against Crystal Palace as the opted for caution over Mohamed Salah‘s fitness, with the congested festive period schedule in mind.

The first of 12 games in 36 days for Liverpool kicks off against Napoli at Anfield, where the opportunity to clinch the top spot in Group E and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League is on the table.

Klopp’s side currently have nine points to their name in Europe, having won three on the bounce following their opening defeat to Wednesday’s opponents.

And with almost a full squad at his disposal, the manager now has a decision to make over his approach for the game.

So here’s a look at how Liverpool could look to lineup for the all-important fixture against Napoli.

 

Team News

While Liverpool ended the international break with a number of players’ availability cast into doubt, the Reds emerged from the Palace outing without further incident.

It ensures the Reds have a host of players at their disposal at Anfield, with only Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson both known to be playing their way through ankle injuries.

With Xherdan Shaqiri continuing his bid to return to match fitness following a lengthy stint on the sidelines with a calf injury and Joel Matip still requiring “some time away from the team,” Salah and Robertson remain as Liverpool’s sole injury concerns.

The Egyptian was an unused substitute on Saturday as Klopp and Co. opted for caution, while Liverpool’s No. 26 featured for the full 90 as he continues to play through the pain.

Ahead of the game, Klopp insisted he is “not worried” as he provided a positive update on Salah, while Robertson says he “feels fresh” as he continues to pay extra attention to managing his injury.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, November 5, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and KRC Genk at Anfield. (Pic by Laura Malkin/Propaganda)

Salah’s return would see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make way, who could make a return to the bench or earn a starting berth in the middle of the park after his impressive displays prior to the international break – which returned four goals in five appearances.

Fabinho, who will miss the meeting with Brighton due to suspension, will occupy his regular position in the side, while both Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson will be looking to sit alongside him, for the third consecutive outing.

Naby Keita and Adam Lallana remain as further options at Klopp’s disposal, while James Milner could be called up in place of Robertson if needed.

The other usual suspects at the back will assume their positions, where Joe Gomez could look for a return in place of Dejan Lovren have started two of the last three Champions League games.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Napoli

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 23, 2019: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson during the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With a win securing qualification and ensuring the team can be rotated against Salzburg on December 10, Klopp could opt for his ‘big game side’ and stick with the side who overcame Palace – including only Salah.

It would result in Oxlade-Chamberlain acting as an option of the bench, while the Reds’ formidable front three would unite from the start for the first time in Europe since the win at Genk – where they each notched an assist, and both Salah and Mane scored.

The regulars in Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Robertson and Lovren would occupy the back five positions, where the latter would be making his first European appearance at Anfield since the quarter-final win over Porto last season.

And in the middle of the park, Fabinho remains one of the first names on the team sheet, with Klopp again turning to Henderson and Wijnaldum as he so often does in games of such magnitude, where Liverpool could look to line up like this:

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


Alternatively, the Reds could look to switch it up from the last game with a change in every department.

At the back, Gomez would assume his place next to Van Dijk in the heart of the defence as he continues his regular run in the team in cup competitions, with Milner remaining on the bench as cover for Robertson or the midfield contingent.

To accommodate the return of Salah alongside Firmino and Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain could now slot into his more natural midfield position to provide attacking impetus from the middle third this time around – another role change as he also led the line against Genk.

It would come at the cost of Henderson’s role in the side, with the skipper making way to accommodate a higher press which can then take advantage of the half-spaces against a Napoli side who have conceded at least one goal in six of their last seven games.

With Wijnaldum then sitting alongside Fabinho, the Reds could set up like this:

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


It will not come as a surprise should Klopp opt for his ‘tried and trusted’ XI in a game which has vast implications for the upcoming months.

While Napoli, who will be without captain Lorenzo Insigne, have a squad littered with talent, the Reds, with Anfield and form on their side, are primed to collect all three points.

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