Jurgen Klopp could field as close as possible to his lineup for the Premier League opener at Norwich as Liverpool take on Bologna in two pre-season friendlies.
The Reds are nearing the final week of their warmup schedule and find themselves in Evian, the second stop in a short tour under the Alps this summer.
Serie A side Bologna provide the opposition for two 60-minute games in the French commune on Thursday, with Klopp revealing his plan to field two different XIs over the course of the afternoon.
The majority of players will feature for the full hour, while others will be given 30 minutes to build up fitness and sharpness following a late return to action after international duty and injury.
With nine days – and two Anfield friendlies – between these ties and the curtain-raiser away to Norwich on August 14, one of the sides Klopp’s deploys should give a big hint as to who will start at Carrow Road.
So how could Liverpool line up in their clashes with Bologna?
Who is available?
The manager has close to his full first-team squad available to him, though caution will be taken over minutes for a handful of key players.
Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino joined the group in Evian on Sunday and therefore are short of training time ahead of the game, but could be considered as substitutes.
Similar can be said for Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who made their return from long-term injuries in the 4-3 loss to Hertha Berlin last week and will be gradually reintroduced.
Thiago is slowly transitioning into full training with the squad as he follows an individual programme – and the Spaniard could even start following the departure of young midfielders Jake Cain and Tyler Morton.
Cain and Morton were joined on the flight back to England by goalkeeper Harvey Davies, centre-back Billy Koumetio, right-back Conor Bradley and forward Mateusz Musialowski.
Jordan Henderson is yet to report back as he has been granted an extended holiday, while Ben Davies left the training camp before the 1-0 win over Mainz due to a personal matter, it is claimed.
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Kelleher, Adrian, Karius, Pitaluga
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Gomez, Konate, Phillips, R.Williams, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Tsimikas, N.Williams, Beck
Midfielders: Fabinho, Thiago, Keita, Milner, Jones, Elliott, Clarkson, Woodburn
Forwards: Salah, Mane, Firmino, Jota, Minamino, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Origi, Shaqiri, Gordon
Liverpool’s first XI
It stands to reason that, like the opening friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart, Klopp will name a weaker lineup and a stronger one over the two games.
For the sake of simplicity, Liverpool’s first XI could be the ‘second choice’ group, allowing those on the fringes to clock more minutes and look to catch the eye ahead of the campaign proper.
Adrian will start in goal, while Neco Williams and Kostas Tsimikas are likely to flank Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams in the back four.
As was the case in the second half against Hertha Berlin, Phillips and Williams could then make way for Van Dijk and Gomez to come off the bench for the final half-hour.
Leighton Clarkson is primed to start in the No. 6 role, with Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott able to line up alongside each other in the advanced positions.
Klopp could decide between either Takumi Minamino or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as his central striker, with 16-year-old Kaide Gordon taking the third spot in attack.
That would see Liverpool’s XI for the first friendly line up like this:
Adrian; N.Williams, Phillips, R.Williams, Tsimikas; Clarkson, Jones, Elliott; Gordon, Minamino, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Liverpool’s second XI
For the second game, the manager can then look to prepare for the Premier League kickoff, with as many as nine likely starters against Norwich able to take to the field together in Evian.
Caoimhin Kelleher is one of the two stand-ins, with the Irishman serving as first-choice goalkeeper until Alisson is deemed fit to start.
With Van Dijk and Gomez unlikely to be fully fit for the season opener Ibrahima Konate and Joel Matip can continue to build chemistry as the centre-back pairing, joined by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
The biggest point of contention perhaps comes in midfield, with much depending on whether Thiago is able to take his place in the starting lineup – if so, he could operate in the deeper role in midfield.
There is a case to argue that Elliott should be in this ‘first choice’ side, but the experience of James Milner could be favoured while Naby Keita‘s fine pre-season form should be rewarded.
Milner, like Kelleher, can be expected to drop out when Fabinho is ready to start.
Diogo Jota should now be able to start, leading the line as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane support him up front:
Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konate, Robertson; Thiago, Milner, Keita; Salah, Mane, Jota
There are a number of players Klopp can call upon from the substitutes’ bench, and the manager is likely to make a handful of changes over the two games.
Van Dijk and Gomez are guaranteed to take part, while Alisson could feasibly replace Adrian for 30 minutes and Xherdan Shaqiri is also available in midfield or attack.
Fabinho, Firmino and Divock Origi are other options along with youngsters Owen Beck and Ben Woodburn, with Marcelo Pitaluga and Loris Karius available in an emergency between the sticks.
Substitutes: Alisson, Karius, Pitaluga, Van Dijk, Gomez, Beck, Fabinho, Woodburn, Shaqiri, Firmino, Origi