If planning his lineups around a December schedule that fits in nine games wasn’t hard enough, Jurgen Klopp has the threat of COVID-19 to consider for Sunday’s trip to Spurs.
The Reds are five games into a nine-game December, with the most relentless run of the campaign underway as they head to north London three days after vanquishing Newcastle.
Klopp and his staff will have mapped out their month in advance, with rotation needed to negotiate a congested fixture list, but now the rapid spread of the new COVID-19 variant has made matters more difficult.
Liverpool will almost certainly have three players out due to positive tests ahead of Sunday, though there is every chance more could be ruled out before kickoff.
If that happens, the game may well be postponed, as with six other Premier League fixtures this weekend at time of writing.
But how could the Reds line up at Tottenham, all being well?
Though the situation could change in the hours leading up to kickoff, here’s what we know so far:
- Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Curtis Jones likely to be isolating
- Doubts over Jordan Henderson after missing live Q&A event
- Divock Origi could still be absent; Adrian and Harvey Elliott out
Liverpool’s XI vs. Spurs
As it stands, it should be assumed that none of Van Dijk, Fabinho or Jones will be available for selection, though the club have yet to inform whether their tests returned false positives.
There are also question marks over whether Henderson will feature, having been absent in a live Q&A for Liverpool’s Christmas charity event on Friday, which both Klopp and Mohamed Salah attended as advertised.
However, with claims of a possible case of COVID-19 for the captain just rumours at this stage, hopes remain that he is fit to start.
If so, Liverpool could take to the pitch in north London with Henderson the spine of a rotated midfield:
- Alisson and unchanged defence of Trent, Matip, Konate and Robertson
- Henderson in No. 6, with Milner and Keita options to shuffle into midfield
- Salah, Mane and Jota likely to start in attack; Firmino saved for Leicester
With two changes to the side from the win over Newcastle, the Reds would line up like this:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konate, Robertson; Henderson, Milner, Keita; Salah, Mane, Jota
But if Henderson is out, as speculated, Klopp would preside over another enforced change, while the manager will also need to consider more rotation for the second game in four days.
In the event the captain is unavailable, Thiago is a probable candidate to step into the deep-lying role:
- Tsimikas a reliable option to allow Robertson a rest
- Ox possibly in line for a start after substitution vs. Newcastle
- Keita the most likely left-sider if Thiago is needed as No. 6
Those alterations would see Liverpool line up like this:
Due to the uncertainty over the Premier League and the COVID-19 situation, it is almost impossible to predict the side that will take on Spurs – or if it will even take place.
But with the information currently available, there should still be a strong bank of players to deploy against Antonio Conte’s side, and once again Klopp can hope for a decisive display from those on the fringes.