Jurgen Klopp is expected to make changes for Liverpool’s dead-rubber Champions League clash with Porto, despite his insistence he will “respect the competition.”
“We always respect the competition, but we have to think about ourselves and our schedule, and the situation of our players first,” the manager told reporters on Tuesday.
With Liverpool guaranteed winners of Group B, there is an opportunity for Klopp to rest key players for the final two games against Porto and AC Milan.
However, with £2.37 million up for grabs with every group stage win, there is a real incentive for the Reds to get another three points at the expense of their Portuguese opposition.
Injuries will limit Klopp’s selection, either way, with a delicate balance to strike between pushing for victory and preserving the fitness of his squad ahead of the festive period.
So how could Liverpool line up against Porto?
The injury latest
Klopp gave very little away in terms of specifics in his pre-match press conference, but we know the following:
- Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson “both OK” – but may not start
- Neco Williams, James Milner and Divock Origi all trained
- No issue for Diogo Jota after knee injury concern vs. Arsenal
- Curtis Jones, Roberto Firmino, Naby Keita and Joe Gomez are still out
Liverpool squad in training on Friday
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Kelleher
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Konate, Phillips, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Tsimikas, Williams, Bradley, Beck
Midfielders: Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, Morton
Forwards: Salah, Mane, Jota, Minamino, Origi, Gordon*
* Ineligible vs. Porto.
Liverpool’s XI vs. Porto
Klopp lined up with his strongest possible side against Arsenal at the weekend, but it is almost certain he will shake things up in midweek.
That isn’t to say Liverpool will field a weak side, particularly given the boost of Robertson, Milner, Williams and Origi all training and Jota avoiding an injury layoff.
However, there are a number of viable candidates to be rotated in, with at least two of those to come in the back line.
Alisson may not be rested, despite the availability of Caoimhin Kelleher, and he could take his place behind a back four of Williams, Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate and Robertson.
In midfield, 19-year-old Tyler Morton seems poised for a Champions League debut to allow Fabinho a rest, with Henderson able to pick up more minutes along with the fit-again Thiago.
Mohamed Salah will not want to sit out, and though Jota is available, the form of Takumi Minamino and return of Origi gives Klopp options:
Alisson; Williams, Matip, Konate, Robertson; Morton, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Origi, Minamino
One of the big decisions facing Klopp is which of his two first-choice centre-backs to rest, with Konate able to step in as one eye remains the weekend’s visit of Southampton.
There is a chance it is Matip who sits out, with Liverpool managing the No. 32’s fitness carefully this season, while the manager could seek consistency at full-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kostas Tsimikas joining Virgil van Dijk.
Kelleher could be given an opportunity to start, too, as he builds up to next month’s League Cup quarter-final.
If Henderson is not yet ready to start in midfield, it could be that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain makes his fourth consecutive start alongside Morton and Thiago.
And while Salah will be eager to be involved, Klopp could instead opt for Sadio Mane, Origi and Minamino in a three-man attack.
Those changes would see Liverpool line up like this:
Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Morton, Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Mane, Origi, Minamino
For those expecting major changes like in early years in the domestic cups, that is highly unlikely despite there being no need to pick up points to progress.
But, buoyed by the availability of five players considered doubts in the buildup, Klopp can still rotate his side and look to a healthy clash with the Primeira Liga leaders.