It’s a balancing act for Jurgen Klopp in the first game in a run of three over six days, with the League Cup tie presenting the chance to make a host of changes.
The Reds’ battle on all fronts continues with Leicester the opponents in the League Cup quarter-final at Anfield, a match that will put rotation to the forefront once more.
Klopp has not held back in keeping his side fresh, and with a congested schedule and Covid cases, it is more important than ever to manage the squad carefully.
Liverpool will be unable to call upon six players due to Covid or injury on Wednesday and late test results could see that number rise, but the hope is the chain has been broken.
And with a number of youngsters to be in the squad, there are numerous possibilities for the XI on Wednesday evening.
The main message from Pep Lijnders, who took over media duties, was Liverpool will not be ‘rushing back’ those who are out with Covid once the time comes:
- Van Dijk, Fabinho, Jones and Thiago still in isolation
- Jordan Henderson back after ‘heavy cold’, the player you ‘need to slow down’
- Divock Origi out having yet to return to team training with reported knee issue
- “Even when we have a team B, it’s always plan A,” says Lijnders
Liverpool’s XI vs. Leicester
With Klopp having said the two games to follow are “really not possible” due to the two-day gap, changes are to be the name of the game to keep the squad as fresh as possible.
This will pave the way for opportunities for the club’s youngsters, potentially another debutant, and those on the fringe, in addition to the returning Roberto Firmino.
It can still present as a strong side despite the changes:
- Kelleher to return to League Cup post in place of Alisson
- Williams and Beck to take up full-back positions
- Gomez to partner debutant Jarell Quansah to keep Konate and Matip fresh
- Morton and Milner next to Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield
- Gordon, Minamino and Firmino to lead the line; rest for Salah and Mane
This would amount to nine changes from the weekend:
Kelleher; Williams, Gomez, Quansah, Beck; Morton, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Gordon, Minamino, Firmino
But should a more experienced defence be sought, Klopp could be tempted to keep Ibrahima Konate in the fold and see him partner with Joe Gomez for the second time this season.
There could also be a role for Kostas Tsimikas despite Andy Robertson‘s red card that will see him suspended for three games, with a pre-planned substitution then not out of the question:
- Konate to keep his place, Matip handed a break
- Tsimikas could start with an early second-half change to keep him fresh
- And Firmino could make first start since October 30
The tweaks in defence would see the Reds line up like this:
Kelleher; Williams, Gomez, Konate, Tsimikas; Morton, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Gordon, Minamino, Firmino
With plenty of youngsters at their disposal and senior options, it’s a difficult task to predict just who Klopp may select for the League Cup tie in what is Liverpool’s seventh game in December.
Changes are assured as is the presence of youngsters in the XI and on the bench, like Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Harvey Blair, and the Reds will hope they can get the job done as they have in the previous rounds.