Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring with Liverpool's Roberto Firmino during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. (Peter Powell/PA Wire/PA Images)

Firmino back to give Mane a break? – Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs. Aston Villa

Jurgen Klopp could consider a much-needed rest for the out-of-form Sadio Mane, with the option of bringing Roberto Firmino back into Liverpool’s lineup vs. Aston Villa

The Reds are back in the Premier League this weekend after a chastening loss at Real Madrid in midweek, with there a clear need for changes from Klopp’s side in Spain.

Villa arrive without their captain and star man on Saturday, with Jack Grealish ruled out, but will still pose a tough test as they look to keep up the pace in the race for Europe.

After back-to-back wins over Wolves and Arsenal in the league, Liverpool can maintain their push for a top-four finish with a first win at Anfield since December 16.

The magnitude of this achievement will be laid out by Klopp ahead of kickoff, and the manager can prompt a continued run of league form with changes against Villa.


Klopp considers changes

Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Klopp explained that there were no new injuries within his squad, but that “some players still felt the game” during training.

“We played on Tuesday, flew back on Wednesday, trained yesterday, some players still felt the game,” he explained.

“Injured is nobody from the game, but we have to see what we make of the information they give us today.

“So nobody is injured, but if we have to change something, you will see tomorrow.”

There is a likelihood of changes, then, with Naby Keita the most probable player to drop out after being substituted just 42 minutes into Tuesday’s 3-1 loss in Madrid.

Thiago could come in, while there is a case to hand Curtis Jones a lifeline after a bizarre run of five games without playing a single minute for Liverpool, having started the previous six in a row.

Divock Origi is expected to miss out again, with the Belgian joined by Caoimhin Kelleher as short-term absentees.


Liverpool’s XI vs. Villa

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, September 28, 2020: Liverpool’s Sadio Mané looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by Propaganda)

The biggest talking point ahead of the Reds’ next clash is a slump in form for Mane, who has scored just three times in his last 15 outings since a brace against Villa’s academy side in the FA Cup in January.

With an increased workload appearing to take its toll on the No. 10, and Diogo Jota now back available, this may be the best opportunity to rest Mane ahead of the decisive Champions League quarter-final next week.

Firmino could, therefore, come in as relief, joining Jota and Mohamed Salah in attack as one of two changes from midweek.

Alisson will keep his place behind an expected back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Nat Phillips, Ozan Kabak and Andy Robertson, while Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum should be retained in midfield.

After Keita’s misery in Madrid, Thiago can take the Guinean’s place to see Liverpool line up like this:

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

Mane is not the only player displaying the effects of fatigue, though, and the comparatively lower profile of this tie next to the second leg against Real could see Klopp make further changes to allow for rest.

Chief among those in need of a break is Robertson, who has started all 20 games for club and country since a night off against Villa in the cup, with James Milner a more feasible replacement than Kostas Tsimikas.

Milner could join Alexander-Arnold, Phillips and Kabak in defence, while his countryman Jones could also offer an alternative to Wijnaldum, who has featured in every game since early December.

With Jones joining Fabinho and Thiago in midfield, the 20-year-old could provide supporting runs for a front line of Salah, Jota and Firmino:

Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Milner; Fabinho, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Jota, Firmino

The importance of this Villa clash cannot be overlooked, but Klopp will undoubtedly have one eye on the Champions League, as Liverpool aim to produce another famous comeback.

Victory can be achieved in both, aided by careful squad management, with Mane the most likely to benefit if he is given at least a substitute’s brief this weekend.