Keita back in the fold & a start for Jota? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Sheffield United

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After a much-needed win in the Champions League last time out, all eyes now return to top-flight action as the Reds meet Sheffield United, where Jurgen Klopp could make minimal changes.

Liverpool picked up three valuable and confidence-boosting points in Amsterdam in mid-week, where life without Virgil van Dijk at the back got off to the ideal start with a clean sheet.

Another challenge awaits the Reds against a side with a familiar face in Rhian Brewster, with Sheffield United making the short trip to Anfield in search of their first win of the season.

The Reds came out of mid-week unscathed and with a number of standout performances in the starting XI and from the bench, leaving the manager with plenty to ponder as he weighs up rotation, form and injuries.

Here’s how Liverpool could line up for the Premier League clash.

 

Team News

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara (L) and manager Jürgen Klopp walk back to the dressing room at full time after an injury time winning goal was disallowed following a VAR review during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

After emerging from the Merseyside derby needing to count the casualties, a boost came in the form that no one who featured at Ajax walked away with an injury.

“My last information was the boys who played other night they are all fine, all okay and the rest we will see,” Klopp told reporters on Friday.

Those the Reds are waiting on are, of course, Thiago, Joel Matip and Naby Keita with the former two picking up injuries at Goodison Park.

Keita, meanwhile, was left out of the travelling party for Ajax for precautionary reasons and could, therefore, have a greater chance of featuring as Liverpool look to opt for caution at a time when games are scheduled every three days.

The boss was coy on particulars and will assess his options from those present at training, where Alisson is still expected to miss the Reds’ next two games as he continues to make positive steps in his recovery from a shoulder issue.

Kostas Tsimikas will not be in contention for the Blades or against Midtjylland, meaning rotation in the defensive third is unlikely.

It is in attack, however, where Liverpool have the greatest strength in depth as shown by a triple substitution in mid-week, with Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri all putting their hand up for more game time.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Sheffield United

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 12, 2020: Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson during the opening FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leeds United FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 4-3. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the need to keep momentum rolling and confidence high, in addition to limited rotation options, the Reds are set to keep the same back-five from Amsterdam intact.

The boss has been clear in his assertion “there’s a lot to improve” but that they need time to get used to each other and this time it will be against a side who will look to combine an aerial threat with pace.

But the combination of Adrian, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson will be out to ensure that they arrive and leave Anfield with just two league goals to their name.

With Jordan Henderson restricted to just 45 minutes in mid-week, a starting berth could come his way in this one before a likely respite against Midtjylland where five substitutions are allowed.

The captain could then be joined by Gini Wijnaldum and the returning Keita against the Blades, with the latter returning for the first time since the defeat at Aston Villa.

And while not directly in the goals, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino could yet start together once more before rotation comes into play in a side which looks like this:

Adrian; Trent, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Mane, Firmino


Klopp could, however, look to mix up his attack with a single change, rewarding Jota for his impressive 30-minute cameo in Amsterdam and handing Firmino a deserved break.

His presence would still enable the Reds to be both fluid and interchangeable in attack and could see Salah start through the middle with Mane shifting to the right and Jota on the left.

It would be just as easy to justify Minamino’s inclusion but on the smallest detail of a height advantage, Jota gets the nod here.

As before, the back-five would stay the same as Alisson remains on the comeback trail, while Curtis Jones could be handed his second successive start alongside Henderson, who would occupy the No. 6 role, and Wijnaldum.

It would see just two changes from mid-week, with the side lining up like this:

Adrian; Trent, Fabinho, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Jota, Mane


While Klopp kept his cards close to his chest in regards to his injured cohort, there is reason to suggest that Liverpool will continue to be cautious in their approach in what is a long and arduous season.

The Blades will come to Anfield with a feeling of having nothing to lose and everything to gain, but the Reds are strong favourites and can look to build on their spirited win in the Champions League.

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