LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 3, 2021: Liverpool's Ben Davies during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Phillips or Davies in defence? Adrian to start? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Sheff. United

Jurgen Klopp has another big decision to make at centre-back as Liverpool head to Sheffield United, and he could be required to make a change between the sticks too.

On paper, the Reds face the perfect opportunity to get back on track this weekend with a visit to the Premier League‘s bottom-placed side.

Sheffield United have endured a miserable campaign so far, and are one of few sides to have experienced a similar injury nightmare to Liverpool, with six defenders sidelined among others.

But there is no guarantee for the champions as they arrive at Bramall Lane, with absences ensuring no fixture is a formality.

The big talking point for Klopp ahead of every game revolves around his centre-back options, and it is no different this time around, with Jordan Henderson now expected to be out for the majority of the remaining fixtures with an adductor problem.

This could see the manager name another new pairing at the back, with a possible debut.


Another season-ender?

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Klopp said that he “hopes there’s a possibility” that Henderson can “play a few games this season,” which cast a negative view on the captain’s injury.

Initial reports suggested Henderson would be back after the March international break, but the manager’s doubtful stance hints that he may well be out for the rest of the campaign.

He joins Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip among the long-term absentees, and with Fabinho not yet back in full training, there are few available options at centre-back.

James Milner is in a similar position to Fabinho, with it highly unlikely the pair will make the squad in Sheffield, but Klopp is more optimistic over the inclusion of Diogo Jota.

“The way he came back in training is very positive,” the manager said.

“So we just have to make a decision about what makes sense for him, when does it make sense for him and all these kind of things.”

It remains to be seen whether Alisson will feature following the tragic death of his father in midweek, and with Caoimhin Kelleher short of fitness, this could see Adrian fill in.


Liverpool’s XI vs. Sheffield United

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Aston Villa won 7-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though there are doubts over the involvement of Alisson, Klopp revealed on Friday that no decision had been made on whether the Brazilian will make the trip to South Yorkshire.

If the No. 1 opts to play on, he will start, but further up the pitch there is uncertainty over who will take Henderson’s place at centre-back.

Ozan Kabak is a shoo-in, as are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson at full-back, and following his introduction in the Merseyside derby last time out, Nat Phillips may be the most likely candidate to come in.

In midfield, Gini Wijnaldum, Thiago and Curtis Jones should keep their places.

With Jota expected to only be passed fit for the bench, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are almost guaranteed to start as the front three:

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

However, the possible absence of Alisson and the prospect of changes elsewhere on the pitch could see an alternate XI take to the field.

If Alisson is out, and Kelleher is still absent, Adrian will make his first appearance since October – and only his sixth of the season – having lost his place as second choice to the Irishman.

In defence, this fixture could be seen as the best opportunity to give Ben Davies his debut, given it is against the Premier League‘s bottom-dwellers who are likely to sit back.

As a left-sided centre-back, the winter signing could be a more natural partner to the right-sided Kabak, but their lack of experience – and lack of chemistry as a duo – may be a red flag.

Meanwhile, Klopp could shake up his midfield ranks with the introduction of Naby Keita, who is now back fit following an extended rehabilitation, having returned to the matchday squad after two months out last weekend.

The Guinean could provide more thrust and creativity against a busy, deep-sitting defence, in support of Salah, Mane and Firmino:

Adrian; Alexander-Arnold, Kabak, Davies, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Mane, Firmino

Given the circumstances surrounding Alisson‘s possible absence, the player coming in to take his place is of little significance – the Brazilian should be provided as much time as he needs.

But with the Premier League champions coming up against the favourites for the drop, there should be enough quality elsewhere on the pitch to ensure a return to winning ways regardless.