Liverpool finally return to action this weekend with a huge trip to the Etihad to face Man City, but how should Jurgen Klopp approach the fixture?
The two teams met a total of five times in 2022, with Guardiola’s side winning the most recent encounter 3-2 in the Carabao Cup fourth round back in December.
The Reds pushed Man City all the way to the final day of last season’s title race, but currently find themselves 19 points behind the hosts going into Saturday lunchtime’s clash.
Coming away with all three points will be a tough ask on this occasion, with Liverpool’s last league win at the Etihad coming back in 2015.
A 17-day break has enabled a number of players to make progress in their recoveries from injury, meaning that there are no shortage of options when it comes to picking a line-up.
How could the starting XI shape up for this one?
The manager provided a mixed injury update for some of the recent absentees during his pre-Man City press conference:
- Luis Diaz returned to first-team training but remains unavailable for selection
- Darwin Nunez is “in contention” to start
- Thiago is still sidelined but is edging closer towards full fitness
- Naby Keita ruled out with a muscle injury
Liverpool’s XI vs. Man City
Injuries to Thiago, Stefan Bajcetic and Keita are likely to force Klopp’s hand somewhat regarding the midfield, but there are still a couple of variations at his disposal.
Fabinho and James Milner started as the two midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 in the last outing against Real Madrid, but the need for at least three goals was the big dictator of that.
Jordan Henderson appears to have made a full recovery from the illness that kept him out of the trip to the Bernabeu and looks extremely likely to be reinstated this weekend.
With all that in mind, the Reds could start like this:
- Unchanged back four from Real Madrid with Alisson in goal
- Henderson to replace Milner in midfield
- Liverpool to revert to 4-3-3, with Harvey Elliott coming in for Diogo Jota
This is how Liverpool would take to the field:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Elliott; Salah, Nunez, Gakpo
The manager’s press conference poured cold water over any hopes of seeing Diaz’s name among the substitutes.
It was fanciful to expect the Colombian to slot straight back into the side given the length of his absence, but fans will be hoping to see his name in a matchday squad in the coming weeks.
Injury issues in midfield and the relative wealth of attacking options could tempt Klopp to employ the 4-2-3-1 we saw at the Bernabeu, giving Diogo Jota the chance to score his first goal since this very fixture last April.
There may even be an opportunity for Arthur to be involved in this fixture in some capacity, particularly given the busy schedule that follows this fixture:
- Jota to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1
- Gakpo to play the number 10 role
- Henderson and Fabinho providing the midfield base
If that is to be the case, this is how the Reds would line up:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson; Salah, Gakpo, Nunez; Jota
It is a brutal start to April for the Reds but points remain a necessity if any hopes of a top-four finish are to be maintained.
Liverpool have had a habit of saving their best for the big occasions this season – let’s hope they have something up their sleeve once again.
Up the Reds.