Stick to winning formula or Ox to return? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Man City

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It’s the newly-crowned champions meeting the outgoing titleholders in a clash which could see Jurgen Klopp make few, if any, changes.

Liverpool were back to their barnstorming best last time out, a performance which was their last as champions-elect as Jurgen Klopp’s side confirmed their top spot 24 hours later without kicking a ball.

The Reds fielded their strongest possible XI against Crystal Palace and reaped their rewards, and with no new injury concerns, the boss could very well resist the urge for change.

The pressure will be off for Liverpool in their seven remaining games but there is still plenty to play for, including notching a league double over Man City for the first time since 2015/16.

With a relentless run of five games in 14 days starting from the clash at the Etihad Stadium, here’s a look at how Klopp could set up his side against Pep Guardiola’s men.

 

Team News

The Reds were dealt a blow to their centre-back options in the form of Joel Matip, with the 28-year-old revealing he would “not be back on the pitch” for the remainder of the season.

A foot injury sustained in a collision against Everton saw him withdrawn from the clash and while the manager had hoped it was “nothing serious,” his season has come to a close with just 13 appearances across all competitions.

While it leaves the Reds with just three senior options to rotate through the position, it could pave the way for Ki-Jana Hoever to slot into the fold without the weight of winning the title on his young shoulders.

There was no fresh update on the fitness of James Milner, who picked up a hamstring strain in the Merseyside derby, but his return to training in mid-week was a welcome sight and suggests his return to the matchday squad is not far away.

Xherdan Shaqiri was a notable presence in training over the week after remaining largely absent throughout Liverpool’s preparations to return to action during football’s suspension.

The extended bench will continue to provide opportunities for the club’s youngsters and the senior players who will start to feature more prominently as games come thick and fast, with Klopp having utilised all five substitutes in Liverpool’s two games to date.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. City

Jordan Henderson of Liverpool celebrates with Virgil Van Dijk after scoring the second goal of the game during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: 1st February 2020. Picture credit should read: James Wilson/Sportimage via PA Images

With an eight-day break behind them, it would not come as a surprise if Klopp was to opt for an unchanged lineup against City.

After struggling for rhythm before football’s enforced break and upon their return against Everton, the convincing win over Palace was a step in the right direction in re-establishing momentum to both finish this season on a high and transition smoothly into the next.

It would see Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson start alongside one another for the second time in succession, with the Brazilian on the hunt for his 13th clean sheet of the campaign.

In the middle of the park, off the back of a stunning performance, Fabinho will continue to operate in the No. 6 role with Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum sitting alongside him.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino will continue to lead the line and look to add to their combined tally of 14 goals against City, in a side which looks like this:

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


But with the title wrapped up and maintaining fresh legs and avoiding fatigue and injury, Klopp could look to tweak his side with the upcoming schedule in mind.

He could offer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his first start since the restart having made two appearances from the bench so far, replacing Wijnaldum in the starting lineup, where he would be searching for his third goal against City in seven outings.

While Divock Origi could feature in the front three in place of Mane, with Liverpool’s No. 10 to then emerge from the bench later in proceedings if required.

The remaining members of the XI who dispatched Palace would hold on to their sports in a team which could lineup like this:

Alisson; Trent, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Ox; Salah, Firmino, Origi


You would not expect to see too many changes, or any, from Klopp against a side he holds a lot of respect for, even though the title is already signed, sealed and delivered.

It is sure to be an interesting battle against City who are now prioritising cup competitions, but a win would move Liverpool closer to eclipsing their record points tally and there is no way they will go finish without a fight.

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