LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Diogo Jota 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)

Jota return could prompt 4-2-3-1 – Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs. Fulham

Jurgen Klopp will make at least one change to his Liverpool lineup for Sunday’s clash with Fulham, but also faces a big call over whether to start the fit-again Diogo Jota.

The Reds have been given little time to dwell on their frustrating 1-0 loss to Chelsea on Thursday night, with Fulham travelling to Anfield for a 2pm kickoff on Sunday.

A tight turnaround could see Klopp rotate to take on the Premier League‘s 18th-placed side, but the need for a result also stresses the importance of his key players keeping their places.

Another injury at centre-back will force the manager’s hand to an extent, but the fitness of a host of exciting squad options, not least Jota, could see him consider changes elsewhere too.

Here’s how Liverpool could line up against Fulham this weekend.


More centre-back changes

Unsurprisingly, Klopp revealed another new injury blow during his pre-match press conference.

After playing five full games in a row following his loan move from Schalke, Ozan Kabak is now sidelined with a “little problem” suffered against Chelsea.

The manager said it “doesn’t look like” his No. 19 would be available, but added that “Nat I think will be ready and Ben as well,” which gives him further options at centre-back.

Nat Phillips missed the midweek defeat with a minor problem, while Ben Davies appears to not yet be trusted having joined from Championship side Preston on deadline day – to the point which it seems doubtful he ever will be.

Kabak joins Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson as absentees, but otherwise, Liverpool are in good shape in terms of fitness.

Jota made his return from a three-month layoff last time out and could be in contention to start, while Naby Keita is also available having played his first 10 minutes in two months against Sheffield United.


Liverpool’s XI vs. Fulham

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 3, 2021: manager Jürgen Klopp and Nathaniel Phillips at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brighton & Hove Albion FC at Anfield. Brighton & Hove Albion won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As ever, the pressing issue for Klopp as he puts together his lineup for Sunday is who should start at centre-back.

In the absence of Kabak, Phillips is the obvious partner to Fabinho, despite the Brazilian looking short of fitness against Chelsea and the Englishman missing the game entirely.

There is also the prospect of rotating one of his full-backs, who are among the most at-risk when it comes to injury, and the return of James Milner could see him come in for Andy Robertson.

Keita may be considered to take over from Curtis Jones in the middle of the park, with a trio of him, Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago likely to be hugely popular.

The manager could also look to shuffle his pack up front as Jota comes in, and with Mohamed Salah a certainty to start following his controversial substitution in midweek, it could be that Sadio Mane drops out to accommodate the No. 20:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Milner; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Jota, Firmino

It seems more likely that fewer changes will be made despite the frustration of losing to Chelsea, however, and it could be that Klopp makes only two alterations.

One of those is, of course, enforced, with Phillips coming in for Kabak as part of a defensive unit that sees him, Fabinho, Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold shielding Alisson.

But the availability of Jota does present the option of a switch to a 4-2-3-1 shape from the start – as was the case when he came on against Chelsea – reprising the promising setup seen prior to his injury.

His inclusion could, then, come at the expense of Jones, with Wijnaldum and Thiago serving as a double pivot and the Portuguese joining Mane and Firmino in support of Salah as centre-forward:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago; Mane, Firmino, Jota; Salah

Incredibly, Fulham head into this game above Liverpool in the form table, with Scott Parker’s side having taken nine points from their last six league outings compared to the Reds’ three.

But Klopp will be aware of the enduring quality in his squad, and can perhaps hope that the injection of Jota back into his starting lineup could be the jolt required to pick up a much-needed win.