Gini back in or go 4-2-3-1? – Predicting Liverpool’s lineup vs. Real Madrid

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Jurgen Klopp has a big decision to make in attack which has a ripple effect on the midfield as he looks to plot the downfall of Real Madrid in their first leg encounter.

It’s back to European action for the Reds less than a month after they secured their passage into the quarter-finals, with Real Madrid waiting in the Spanish capital.

With a dominant win over Arsenal over the weekend, Liverpool head into Tuesday’s meeting with confidence and a timely spring in their step.

Taking a positive result back to Merseyside will be the priority with a place in the semi-finals on the line and they have the opportunity to make it four victories on the spin for the first time since November.

With hopes of finishing the campaign on a high, Klopp has a number of decisions to make as he puts together his lineup for the clash against Zinedine Zidane’s side.

 

No new concerns

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 20, 2020: Liverpool’s manager Jürgen Klopp smiles after the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

It’s a rarity in what has been a season defined by setbacks, but Liverpool will head to Spain without any fresh injury concerns.

Jordan Henderson remains sidelined, as does Caoimhin Kelleher and Divock Origi as they each continue treatment for their respective injuries.

But, thankfully, no new names have been added to the existing list to hand Klopp a healthy squad to choose from for the all-important clash.

Roberto Firmino made a successful return to action over the weekend, while Diogo Jota and Gini Wijnaldum made appearances off the bench after a taxing time on international duty.

Andy Robertson was withdrawn at the Emirates with 30 minutes remaining to keep him out of harm’s way and ready for Zidane’s side, while Ozan Kabak‘s 84th-minute substitution came in light of his importance and game time.

It means Klopp’s side is as fresh as it can be and he has a number of options up his sleeve with the likes of Curtis Jones, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri.

 

Liverpool’s XI vs. Real Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 3, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (L) and Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It could be all about the system for Klopp as weighs up his options, with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 both more than capable of plotting Real Madrid’s downfall.

But with a game of such magnitude, it could be a case of deploying the former on the European stage with only a number of tweaks from the side who picked the Gunners apart.

The back-five would remain in-tact for the fourth game in succession, with Phillips and Kabak now the most-used partnership for Klopp this season with 645 minutes as a pair.

In midfield, Fabinho would be joined by Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum, with the latter returning after a break over the weekend and ahead of Keita, Jones, Milner and the closest to the ‘tried and trusted’ combination.

The forward line is where it gets interesting considering Jota’s hot streak of seven goals in his last five games for club and country.

With Firmino having had a rest and trained with Klopp over the break, he is likely to be retained alongside top scorer Mo Salah, meaning a tired-looking Sadio Mane starts from the bench.

High pressure will be key and a clinical finisher in Jota is needed and the No. 10 is more than capable of adding pace and a threat later in the piece:

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


But should Liverpool look to up the ante and deploy all four of their forwards, the 4-2-3-1 combination is the way to go.

This would see Mane retain his place in the side, on the left, with Jota or Salah a candidate to lead the line as Firmino sits in the hole in the No. 10 position.

It would mean there would be no room for Wijnaldum or Keita et al. as Fabinho and Thiago take on the double-pivot positions which showed signs of success within the game at Arsenal.

The back-line would remain untouched for Liverpool in a side that looks like this:

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


Ensuring the press is high up the pitch and effective will be key to Liverpool’s chances, in addition to ruthlessness in front of goal in order to take at least one away goal back to Anfield.

That Klopp has options to mix up his team is a welcome change of pace, but how he decides to set up in attack will dictate the rest – there can be no underestimating Real, but Liverpool certainly have what it takes to win.

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