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Fabinho back in defence, Mane over Jota? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Real Madrid

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Jurgen Klopp has options aplenty for the do-or-die clash against Real Madrid, but could he consider shifting Fabinho back into central defensive to get the job done?

The task is clear, albeit not an easy one, with a 3-1 deficit needed to be overcome at Anfield if Liverpool wish to take part in their third European Cup semi-final under Klopp.

Thankfully, the eight-game run without a win on home soil came to an end over the weekend thanks to a late rocket from Trent Alexander-Arnold, which was only the third time this season the Reds have scored after the 90-minute mark.

It was a welcome boost to morale ahead of Real Madrid’s visit, who arrive knowing that if they score one goal Liverpool will need at least three.

There’s a mountain to climb and it will not be lost on Klopp and his men, but the unpredictable nature of the game and the feats this team have achieved mean they cannot be written off.

But much will come down to Klopp’s team selection, where he may need to weigh up decisions across every department to get the job done.

 

No New Concerns

The Reds emerged unscathed from the weekend win over Aston Villa, with Curtis Jones the notable absentee from that fixture as a “precaution” for a muscle issue.

He joined Divock Origi and Caoimhin Kelleher on the sidelines, both of whom are expected to miss out on a place in the matchday squad again, while Jordan Henderson remains a ways off.

No new concerns, however, were disclosed in his pre-match press conference which means Klopp has options at his disposal across each line on Wednesday, and a few changes can be expected.

Thiago is the most likely to return after two games out of the XI, while Roberto Firmino certainly did enough against Aston Villa to warrant a place in the side.

And with Sadio Mane only emerging as a late substitute on the weekend, a decision will need to be made over who gets the nod between the No. 10 and Diogo Jota should the manager opt for only three of his four attackers from the off.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Real Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 3, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates after scoring the second goal with team-mates Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (C) and Thiago Alcantara (R) during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The first meeting between the two saw the midfield come under fire, with Naby Keita withdrawn before half-time as the Reds were outclassed and overrun.

It wasn’t until Thiago arrived that some semblance of control emerged, and after two successive games starting from the bench, the No. 6 ought to slot back in for this one.

It would see James Milner drop out, with a late role if required, from the side who inflicted defeat on Villa, with Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum completing the midfield trident.

The back-five would remain intact for the sixth game running, with Trent handed a welcome boost in confidence after his winning goal.

And with a 4-3-3 formation, the four forwards will need to be dwindled down to three.

Firmino missed out in their last meeting but his showing over the weekend deserves a starting berth alongside Mohamed Salah, and Mane could earn the faith of Klopp after being rested on Saturday.

It would see Liverpool line up like this:

Alisson; Trent, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane


However, after three successive late substitutions of Ozan Kabak which saw Fabinho drop back into defence, Klopp could very well start the Brazilian in the defensive line.

Real exposed the high-line last time out, largely due to no up-field pressure, and with a desire to protect forcing a different mindset, Fabinho‘s presence could very well offer needed freedom for his teammates up the pitch.

It would see Nat Phillips drop out of the side as a needed solution for this game only, with a double-pivot in midfield in the form of Wijnaldum and Thiago to both shield and act as the link to the attack.

One which includes all four of Salah, Mane, Firmino and Jota as Klopp opts for all his weapons from the off.

The unlikelier of the two options, but it is one which could still look to get the job done:

Alisson; Trent, Fabinho, Kabak, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago; Salah, Firmino, Mane; Jota


There’s no overstating the difficulty of the challenge which lie in wait as while a 2-0 scoreline is within the realm of possibility, Real Madrid have shown their European know-how time and time again.

More history beckons, but pressure, intensity and clear minds will be the order of the day if Klopp’s side are complete another memorable comeback under the Anfield lights.

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