An Anfield Champions League night does not get much bigger than a semi-final and Jurgen Klopp has the luxury of choice for the first leg tie, but who is to get the nod in the XI?
The Reds have had a week to savour, from sending Man United back down the M62 with their tails between their legs before picking off the relegation-threatened Everton.
The wave of momentum shows no signs of slowing down and the hope is that it can also swallow up Villarreal as they make the journey to Anfield after knocking out both Juventus and Bayern Munich.
Klopp is eager for fans to be “on top of their game” under the lights on Wednesday evening while his players look to make the Spanish side suffer on the pitch.
Changes are to be expected from the manager but just how could the Reds shape up on this European night.
While Roberto Firmino is making progress on his foot injury the match is likely to come too soon, he remains Liverpool’s sole absentee due to injury:
- Firmino unlikely to be ready, would be a “surprise” if available
- Klopp said no further injury concerns after the derby
- However, Tsimikas a notable training absentee on Tuesday
- A 23-man squad can be named at Anfield
Liverpool squad in training on Tuesday
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Kelleher, Adrian, Pitaluga
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Konate, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson
Midfielders: Fabinho, Thiago, Henderson, Keita, Milner, Jones, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Forwards: Salah, Mane, Diaz, Jota, Origi, Minamino
Liverpool XI vs. Villarreal
It’s incredible to think how deep Liverpool’s squad is at this stage of the season, it’s night and day from the experiences of last year with only Firmino working his way back to fitness.
With an otherwise healthy squad to pick from, changes will be in the reckoning and the question will be if Klopp is to keep fans on their toes or not.
After two successive starts, Joel Matip is anticipated to drop out with Ibrahima Konate taking his place, while Jordan Henderson and Luis Diaz could be injected after coming off the bench on Sunday:
- Konate joins the backline next to Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk and Robertson
- Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago make up the midfield three
- And Diaz rejoins Salah and Mane in the final third
This would see Liverpool take to the pitch as follows:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago; Salah, Diaz, Mane
On the other hand, Henderson could again be left disappointed with missing out on a place in the XI as Klopp sticks with Fabinho, Thiago and Keita – the latter of whom was withdrawn after 60 minutes on Sunday.
And while Tsimikas was a training absentee on Tuesday afternoon, he could yet have a part to play even after Robertson’s eye-catching display in the derby:
- Konate in for an attempt of three goals in three European appearances
- Unchanged midfield three of Fabinho, Keita and Thiago; Jones a possible option
- And to keep us on our toes, Jota takes up the central role in place of Mane
Those tweaks have Liverpool shaping up like this:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Keita, Thiago; Salah, Diaz, Jota
There are a few certainties you can expect to see from Liverpool from the start against Villarreal, but after a three-day break and the subsequent quick turnaround to Newcastle, Klopp could spring a surprise.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility but you feel he will keep his changes to a minimum this time around as Liverpool looks to take a strong result to Spain for the second leg.