Firmino an option even if Jota starts – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Arsenal

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Jurgen Klopp has the option of restoring Roberto Firmino to his starting lineup as Liverpool head to Arsenal, but that may not need to come at the expense of Diogo Jota.

The Reds are back after almost three weeks away and face a pivotal four days, with Arsenal first up on Saturday before a trip to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Victory in both games could continue the revival mounting on Merseyside, as Klopp’s side look to end the campaign strongly after seeing their title defence crumble.

Arsenal head into this clash on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Olympiakos and a 3-3 comeback draw with West Ham, but sit comfortably above Liverpool in the Premier League form table having taken 11 points from their last six games.

With faint hopes of a top-four finish still alive, the Reds need to take a win from the Emirates, and Klopp has a variety of options as he prepares his lineup.

 

Bobby’s back

The prevailing injury news from Klopp’s pre-match press conference is that “Bobby is back,” with the manager confirming common knowledge that Firmino has returned to training after three games out.

Neither Caoimhin Kelleher nor Divock Origi are available as they continue to nurse injuries, but – beyond the long-term absentees – the Reds are in fine shape otherwise.

Klopp revealed that none of his 12 internationals returned with injury issues, and in fact referenced the boost the likes of Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri will have received after producing a series of strong performances while on duty.

Others were given something of a rest, namely Thiago who only played 53 minutes for Spain, while the likes of Alisson, Fabinho, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold were not in action entirely.

For Gini Wijnaldum and Andy Robertson, though, it was a very busy break, with the pair starting all three games for the Netherlands and Scotland respectively.

Those not with their national teams were put through their paces at Kirkby, but though a host of youngsters were called up for training, it is unlikely any will be added to Klopp’s squad just yet.

Mateusz Musialowski, Kaide Gordon and James Balagizi, for example, will instead prepare for the under-18s’ FA Youth Cup clash with Man United.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Arsenal

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 7, 2021: Liverpool's Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. Fulham won 1-0 extending Liverpool's run to six consecutive home defeats. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given the significance of the game, it is unlikely Klopp will make many changes with an eye on Real Madrid, and it could be that he in fact names an unaltered side from the 1-0 win over Wolves last time out.

That would see Alisson take his place in goal behind a back four of Nat Phillips, Ozan Kabak, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with Fabinho shielding as the No. 6.

Thiago and Wijnaldum would join Fabinho in midfield, with Firmino overlooked in favour of Jota up front, flanked by Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

With Arsenal likely to field a similar setup and look to break down the flanks, it may be wise to line up as below:

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


However, given the Gunners will cede possession to their visitors and sit back for much of the evening, it could be best to take the fight to them.

This could come with a slight change of formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, with the introduction of Firmino.

Despite Robertson likely needing a rest in the near future, the back four is unlikely to change, with James Milner an option but not an ideal one and Kostas Tsimikas not yet trusted.

A change could come in midfield, though, with Wijnaldum given a breather before the Champions League quarter-final, with Firmino taking his place.

The Brazilian could line up as a No. 10, with Salah and Mane either side of him and Jota up front:

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


There are other possibilities, such as the use of Naby Keita in midfield or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as an attacking option, but experimentation is unlikely in this game.

More feasible is a tweak to bring Firmino back into the fold – particularly given his unmatched record against Arsenal, with eight goals in 11 league games so far.

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