The dreaded early kick-off after an international break has been imposed upon us again, so how will Jurgen Klopp navigate his injured and suspended absentees for the derby?
Premier League football returns to Anfield for the first time in four weeks and it doesn’t get bigger than the annual visit of our neighbours from across the park.
Liverpool have unfortunately not come out of that break unscathed, with a number of fitness doubts set to be added to the handful of likely absentees for this weekend.
To discuss the alternatives to our injured parties and the full range of selection options, Adam Beattie (@beatts94), Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and David Lynch (@dmlynchlfc) have put themselves into the manager’s shoes for this one.
An untimely blow for Robertson over the break, who is your pick at left-back this weekend?
ADAM: There’s definitely an argument to go with Joe Gomez given the start he’s made this season, but I’d be a bit surprised to see anyone other than Kostas Tsimikas on the teamsheet given he’s not long signed a new deal.
Questions remain over whether the new system suits him and he is going to have to answer those over the coming weeks, but you would imagine he was given some assurances over his role before signing the extension.
JOANNA: I have to agree with you there, Adam. It feels like the only solution currently but that could change as the weeks progress, with Gomez as you mentioned, which could be interesting.
Tsimikas has never started more than two Premier League games in a row so there’s going to be plenty asked of him. Can’t say it doesn’t make me slightly apprehensive, though!
DAVID: On the basis that you don’t hand a squad player a new contract if you’re not convinced he can do a job in situations like this, it surely has to be Tsimikas.
He may not be on Robertson’s level (that’s how back-ups work!) but I feel the Greek has veered into almost underrated territory of late.
He was one of the players who ensured Liverpool’s squad depth was good enough to have a crack at all four competitions a couple of seasons ago, and his creative numbers underline just how big a threat he is from both open play and set-pieces.
If, like some fans, Klopp has doubts over whether Tsimikas can come in for a run of four league games against sides placed no higher than 13th, then he really should not have signed him up to that deal last month.
There are also some doubts at the top of the pitch, does the front three pick itself or will Klopp spring a surprise on us?
DAVID: The main question here is whether Darwin Nunez has recovered sufficiently from the cramps he suffered on international duty to be part of the starting line-up, but I think Klopp should do everything he can to get him in.
It’s not just that he put Brazil to the sword while representing Uruguay but also because I feel he put in one of his most quietly impressive performances in a Liverpool shirt at Brighton last time out.
In that game, Nunez showed just how much his hold-up play and discipline in the press have come on of late and, when you combine that with his natural goal threat, you have the ingredients for the perfect centre-forward. Let’s hope he’s fully fit.
JOANNA: I’m not expecting any surprises with this one after the break considering who will and will not be available.
I think it will be too soon for Cody Gakpo so I’m expecting Diaz on the left, even though he did play every minute for Colombia and is one of the late returnees.
ADAM: We’re in a privileged position where we don’t need to risk the likes of Nunez or Gakpo and I don’t expect we will do so from the start.
Part of the reason we started as well as we did is that we had those sorts of options to bring off the bench, so hopefully they will both at least be fit enough for a spot in the matchday squad.
A front three of Diaz, Salah and Jota still sounds like more than enough to give the Everton backline plenty to lose sleep over, but I’m always partial to a bit of Nunez!
Gravenberch looked sharp before the break and has been rested unlike others, is it time for his first league start?
JOANNA: To put it succinctly, yes.
I’ve been really impressed by what I’ve seen from Ryan Gravenberch so far and having sat out and been able to train without any disruptions leading into the game, it gives him a leg up on other options.
He also gives the team more height and physicality, which is a characteristic needed in a derby!
DAVID: I don’t think Gravenberch could have done much more to stake a claim for a start in this game and so I really hope he gets his reward.
Klopp probably wishes he had gone with Gravenberch from the off in that game but, with Curtis Jones still suspended, he has the chance to correct that mistake in the Merseyside derby. A big opportunity surely awaits.
ADAM: He has definitely made more than enough of a solid case.
If Klopp persists with Mac Allister as the holding midfielder then you’d expect the decision will boil down to Gravenberch or Elliott and that might just depend on what sort of game he wants it to be.
Gravenberch’s physicality certainly wouldn’t do us any harm in this fixture as Jo alluded to, but whichever way the manager chooses to go, I imagine we’ll see both at some stage.
Finally, pick us the team you’d go with!
ADAM: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Gravenberch; Salah, Jota, Diaz
DAVID: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Gravenberch; Salah, Nunez, Diaz
JOANNA: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Mac Allister, Szoboszlai, Gravenberch; Salah, Jota, Diaz