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Jota or Jones as Klopp weighs up reunion – Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs. Wolves

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Jurgen Klopp finds himself in a relatively strong position as Liverpool prepare for the visit of Wolves, with the possibility of a reunion from the start for Diogo Jota.

The Reds sealed a vital result in midweek as Curtis Jones‘ first Champions League goal downed Ajax and secured progress to the last 16, ensuring Wednesday night’s clash with Midtjylland is a dead-rubber.

That has, in effect, given Liverpool’s first team a four-day break between the visits of Ajax and Wolves and then, after Sunday, a six-day gap before the next meaningful fixture, which comes away to Fulham.

Of course, while Klopp will privately be looking two, three or even four games ahead as he prepares for every game, outwardly his emphasis will be on gaining a result at the expense of Wolves.

And rightly so: Nuno Espirito Santo’s side headed into the weekend sitting seventh and just four points behind the Reds, with this a huge tie for both clubs.

Fortunately, then, Klopp is boosted by an increasingly positive injury situation, leaving him with more decisions to make.

 

Returnees and the red zone

Friday saw both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita return from injury to take part in full training, while Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson shook off knocks picked up vs. Ajax.

Absent, however, were James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Thiago, Alisson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though the majority of those were in the gym stepping up their recovery.

Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Shaqiri could all be back imminently, but the manager is forced to be wary of further fitness issues cropping up due to the congested fixture list.

“All players are in the red zone,” Klopp admitted in his pre-match press conference, highlighting how every lineup selected involves a calculated risk in some area.

This almost guarantees changes from the side that overcame Ajax, though the likes of Jones, Neco Williams and Caoimhin Kelleher could have cemented their places with strong displays against the Dutch side.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Wolves

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 22, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp embraces goal-scorer Diogo Jota as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Leicester City 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 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Arguably the biggest talking point in midweek was the manner in which Kelleher swiftly and decisively usurped Adrian as Klopp’s new second-choice goalkeeper.

With Alisson absent, the Irishman is expected to make his first Premier League start against Wolves, and would do so deservedly following his composed performance keeping out Ajax.

In front of Kelleher, this game may come too soon for Alexander-Arnold, with his first start back from a hamstring problem likely to be away to Midtjylland, with Williams given the chance to follow up his promising display in midweek.

There may be a temptation to rotate at centre-back and left-back, with Nat Phillips and Kostas Tsimikas options, but with an opportunity to rest on Wednesday night, Fabinho, Joel Matip and Robertson should all start at Anfield.

Klopp’s midfield of Henderson, Jones and Gini Wijnaldum could remain unchanged, too, while in attack there is a big call to make if the system remains as a 4-3-3.

While Jota would relish a reunion with his former employer, it may be better to utilise the No. 20 as an impact substitute, with Roberto Firmino returning to lead the line alongside Mo Salah and Sadio Mane:

Kelleher; N.Williams, Fabinho, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino


However, as with against Man City a month previous, the best avenue for Liverpool – particularly as they will be roared on by 2,000 eager supporters, back at Anfield for the first time since March – may be taking the fight to Wolves.

This could manifest itself in a switch to a 4-2-3-1, and this would present Jota the opportunity to prove himself against a club he spent three years with prior to his £45 million summer switch.

His place in the side may come at the expense of Jones, who could instead be reserved as a ‘senior’ figure against Midtjylland, with the rest of the XI staying the same:

Kelleher; N.Williams, Fabinho, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane; Jota


Given Liverpool will be without at least four first-choice starters, among many others, that either of the proposed XIs could be seen as strong enough to not only compete with Wolves but look to dominate is testament to the resolve within Klopp’s squad.

Shrewd acquisitions, namely Jota, and the rise of the likes of Kelleher, Williams and Jones have given Klopp a boost as he looks to navigate through a difficult run – with few fixtures tougher than this one.

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