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Fabinho injury to hand Kabak debut – Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs. Leicester

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With Fabinho absent for Liverpool’s away clash with Leicester, Jurgen Klopp could be forced to hand Ozan Kabak his Premier League debut in a challenging fixture.

The Reds have barely been a week without a new fitness issue this season, as the demands of the schedule take their toll on every side.

Muscle injuries have become commonplace, and unfortunately that is the case again as Liverpool head to the King Power without their most reliable centre-back option this season.

Fabinho‘s absence gives Klopp a big decision to make again, but the manager is buoyed by the availability of two new faces, while elsewhere on the pitch he is likely to rely on his regular starters.

Here’s how Liverpool could line up against Leicester on Saturday.

 

Another one’s gone…

The first question of Klopp’s pre-match press conference on Friday focused on his confidence in starting either of Kabak and Ben Davies, almost a fortnight on from their arrival at the club.

This led the manager to reveal that Fabinho “will not be available” having “suffered again a little muscle issue,” with it also unlikely that his No. 3 will be back to take on RB Leipzig in midweek.

Fabinho appears to have been rushed back for the clash with Man City last weekend, and following a shaky display in 4-1 defeat has been dealt another setback.

He is not the only absentee, and Klopp confirmed that neither Diogo Jota or Naby Keita would be available either.

Klopp was, however, encouraged by the Reds’ performance against City despite the scoreline, and that could see few changes made beyond those enforced due to injury.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Leicester

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 7, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. Manchester City won 4-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There is no chance of Klopp losing faith in Alisson as his first-choice goalkeeper, despite the Brazilian’s two errors effectively costing Liverpool a result against City.

The No. 1 will keep his place on Saturday, and could be required to provide stability if Kabak comes into the lineup as expected.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson should also remain, with Jordan Henderson the Turk’s most probable partner at the back given the situation, with Davies perhaps too big a gamble against Jamie Vardy.

If Henderson does start at centre-back again, Gini Wijnaldum should be entrusted as the No. 6, to be joined by Thiago and Curtis Jones who, having been withdrawn on 68 minutes against City, will be looking to build on a standout display.

The absence of Jota means that Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are almost guaranteed to start again:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Henderson, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino


There is the chance that Kabak is still not deemed ready to start, particularly given the challenge of keeping Vardy quiet on his potential debut, with Klopp praising the contribution of Nat Phillips as he assessed his options.

With Leipzig looming – a side Kabak is more than familiar with, having played them three times over spells with Stuttgart and Schalke – the 20-year-old could be reserved for a Champions League debut.

Phillips would likely be the only alteration to the previous XI, with the Englishman’s aerial ability potentially key to “avoiding the passes” to Vardy, as Klopp noted.

There is, of course, also the option of starting the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield, but Jones should be the preferred option at this stage:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Henderson, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino


The absence of Fabinho is, again, far from ideal for Liverpool, but it is a problem Klopp and his players are now accustomed to weathering throughout a demanding campaign.

If Kabak steps in and performs, it will be a major boost for the Reds, as a solid, specialist option at centre-back is required following the uncertainty of the months gone.

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