Jurgen Klopp will inject “fresh legs” into his side for Liverpool’s FA Cup trip to Shrewsbury, with question marks over Naby Keita and Takumi Minamino.
The Reds are set for a change of pace this weekend as they make the trip to New Meadow for a fourth-round tie against League One’s 16th-placed side.
Klopp’s champions-elect are overwhelming favourites, with 58 places between the two sides in the English football pyramid, but it will not be a full-strength lineup deployed in Shropshire.
Instead, this clash provides an opportunity for those lacking game time or working their way back to full fitness to make an impression.
Here’s how Liverpool could take to the field on Sunday evening.
Klopp revealed in his press conference on Friday afternoon that neither James Milner or Xherdan Shaqiri are likely to be fit to take part at Shrewsbury.
Meanwhile, Sadio Mane underwent a scan on his hamstring, which will rule the No. 10 out of contention too, though he was not expected to be involved either way.
There was more positive news on Keita, however, with Klopp explaining that he was due to return to first-team training on Friday, and “will be an option” if he makes it through the session.
Minamino could also be set for more game time, though the manager awaits a decision from Liverpool’s medical staff after a tough Premier League debut at Wolves, saying “I still don’t know him long enough [to judge].”
Fabinho, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are in line to start, as is Adrian, with Klopp confirming the Spaniard will replace Alisson.
Adam Lallana missed the 2-1 win at Wolves due to a virus, so is a doubt.
Klopp’s Rotation Plan
Klopp has firm plans to rotate his side this weekend, telling reporters at Melwood that he intends to call upon “fresh legs,” with the availability of Fabinho, Matip and Lovren aiding his cause.
“We will have a team with fresh legs, and we have players coming back from injury, so it makes sense to play them,” he explained.
“Because they are pretty good and we want to go through that round. We are qualified for the round, so we want to go through.
“We know it’s a tough place to go, how it always is in cup competitions, and so that’s it.”
Having already conceded his lineup for the third-round win over Everton would have been decidedly more experienced were more senior players available, Klopp can be expected to play it safer at New Meadow.
The likes of Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott will no doubt be involved, while Yasser Larouci is on hand to cover a left-back shortage, plus Pedro Chirivella could be given another outing.
But otherwise, Klopp’s rotation is likely to be more ‘three games in a week’ than ‘two games in two days’.
Liverpool’s Starting XI vs. Shrewsbury
Keita has been one of the Reds’ most unfortunate players this season, particularly as his injury problems have arisen at times when he would have been called upon.
The Guinean missed the FA Cup win over Everton for example, and could still be absent on Sunday, with his fitness the main focus in Klopp’s selection.
If Keita is fit, he could join Fabinho and Lallana—provided the Englishman has recovered from illness—in a strong midfield, ahead of a back four of Williams, Matip, Lovren and Larouci.
And after his baptism of fire at Molineux in midweek, Minamino could be reserved for a substitute’s role, with Elliott and Jones on either wing and Divock Origi up front.
This would provide a welcome blend of youth and experience, along with reintegrating four players after injury:
Adrian; Williams, Matip, Lovren, Larouci; Fabinho, Lallana, Keita; Elliott, Jones, Origi
There is the prospect of Klopp being forced to name a less experienced midfield, however, if Lallana and Keita are both still out.
While the goalkeeper and defensive line are effectively set, with Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson all able to rest, the engine room options are unclear.
Without Lallana and Keita, the manager could instead name Jones in midfield, with Chirivella the third man to join Fabinho after his Man of the Match showing in the third round.
This would leave the Reds short in attack, which could require Minamino to start on the left flank, in another early test of his credentials:
Adrian; Williams, Matip, Lovren, Larouci; Fabinho, Chirivella, Jones; Elliott, Minamino, Origi
Ideally, Klopp will not make any gambles with the fitness of his squad players for this tie, with the gulf between Liverpool and Shrewsbury not necessitating one.
Instead a sensible approach would see further minutes for the pick of the academy crop, along with chances for the likes of Adrian and Origi, and a test for those on the mend.