Liverpool are back on the road to meet West Ham, where Jurgen Klopp will be forced to make a tweak to his winning formula in the Premier League.
After taking a brief break from Premier League action, the familiar faces of Klopp’s Reds are set to return.
The boss made 11 changes to his side for the trip to Shrewsbury where they squandered a two-goal lead in the FA Cup, to ensure another fixture has been added to the list during what was supposed to be the winter break.
Klopp’s stance has been made clear, with the first team not involved in the replay, but for now they are back to continue their formidable form in the top flight as a trip to West Ham awaits.
The outing accounts for Liverpool’s game in hand as it was postponed due to Club World Cup exploits.
With an enforced change to consider, Klopp will have to make a deviate from the XI used in the last three league games.
And here’s how Liverpool could look to line up in the capital.
Sadio Mane remains Liverpool’s freshest and most pressing injury concern, with a hamstring issue forcing his early withdrawal in the win against Wolves.
Updates in the immediate aftermath of his injury were scarce, but the boss has now revealed that Liverpool’s No. 10 “will not be involved at West Ham and probably not for Southampton” after sustaining a “small muscle tear.”
While Mane’s absence is a blow, he is set to be back after the break, and news elsewhere makes for relatively good reading with James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Adam Lallana the only players who failed to train at Melwood on Monday evening.
The trio are expected to return to contention in the coming days but Southampton’s visit could come too soon, ensuring they will not return until after the winter break.
Naby Keita was named in the matchday squad on Sunday for the first time since the Reds’ last game of 2019, while Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Fabinho all made their first starting appearance since their respective injuries.
It leaves Klopp with a multitude of options at his disposal as he contends with two games in four days.
Liverpool’s XI vs. West Ham
Klopp has been resistant to change in recent weeks, fielding the same starting XI for three league games in succession.
And while Mane’s injury forces his hand, he could again look to keep his side as consistent as possible by making just a single change from the side who won at Wolves.
The back five of Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson will all start and again be on the search for a clean sheet after Wolves ended a shutout run of seven games.
While Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been hooked with at least 20 minutes to play in his last three league outings, he could retain his place ahead of Fabinho after the Brazilian played his first full 90 minutes since November against Shrewsbury.
Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum would sit alongside Liverpool’s No. 15.
In attack, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will turn their late cameo appearances in the FA Cup into starting berths with Divock Origi the man tasked with occupying the final position.
Without a league goal to his name since the win over Everton in December, this clash against a side with the joint-fourth worst defensive record in the division could come as a welcome opportunity:
Alisson; Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Origi, Firmino
Alternatively, with Origi doing little to impress in his performance against Shrewsbury, Klopp could look to either Oxlade-Chamberlain or Takumi Minamino to occupy the vacant position in attack.
The latter felt the effects of an unexpected league debut at Wolves and played 85 minutes over the weekend, and could instead be turned to at Anfield against Southampton.
And while it’s certainly not the Oxlade-Chamberlain’s favoured position, he is more than capable of getting the job done and it would then pave for the way for Fabinho to slot into the middle of the park.
Liverpool’s No. 3 struggled at New Meadow and Klopp admitted he, along with Matip and Lovren, needed to “find the rhythm back,” and this game could provide that chance alongside regular members of the XI.
An opportunity should then come later in the game to offer Keita some minutes prior to the game against Southampton.
The back five would then remain intact, with one of Lovren and Matip occupying the bench:
Alisson; Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino
With two games in the space of four days, there will be opportunities to tweak the side accordingly, but for now it will be a case of how best to fill Mane’s slot on Wednesday for Klopp.
But with the Hammers in dire straits both on and off the field and only goal difference keeping them above the relegation zone, the Reds should have more than enough firepower to overcome the hosts.