Jack Hallows attempts to predict the starting line-up that will take the field when Liverpool come up against Hoffenheim in their Champions League qualifier.
Liverpool’s XI against Watford wasn’t terrible in truth, in fact, throw one of Coutinho/Lallana into the midfield with Nathaniel Clyne at right-back and you’re pretty much at full strength.
However, the poor shift put in by Gini Wijnaldum, coupled with some worrying showings at the back mean that Liverpool can’t simply just put out the same XI when they meet Hoffenheim in the first leg of Champions League qualifying round.
Here’s the change-ups that I’d suggest.
I’m opting for Klopp to abandon the 4-3-3 for the away leg and switch to a 4-2-3-1. This allows Klopp to play Solanke up front, providing the Reds with a different dimension while still keeping the Mané/Firmino/Salah trio intact on the field.
The use of a double pivot in the midfield also allows for a little bit of extra defensive security which, playing away from home, is always a bonus – especially when it’s likely we’ll look to hit the German side on the counter-attack.
Goalkeeper: Loris Karius
Mignolet wasn’t exactly at fault for any of the three goals scored by Watford but Liverpool were lacking any real ability to link their defence to their attack and Karius’ superior distribution skills could be of use in this regard.
The two are unfortunately a very like-for-like pairing when it comes to their ability to deal with crosses and set pieces but after Mignolet shipped three goals on Saturday, it’s probably only fair for Karius to be given a runout.
Back four: ‘TAA’, Matip, Lovren, Moreno
As poor as Liverpool were defensively against Watford on Saturday, there’s nothing I can really see Klopp doing that improves us.
None of Klavan, Gomez, Robertson or Milner can improve the back four by simply walking into Liverpool’s starting XI so I have to trust that Saturday was just a very bad day out for this back four and they’ll sort their shit out on Tuesday evening and improve.
Midfield: Henderson, Can
I’ve dropped Wijnaldum and moved to a double pivot of Henderson and Can simply because Gini was so woeful against Watford. The Dutchman offered nothing going forward or on the back foot and so, he’s been sacrificed.
A double pivot in midfield allows the Reds to push higher up the wings with the full backs and really use the width of the pitch while still seeing Salah and Mané able to cut inside of the opposition full backs. There is also the fact that I just don’t think Can plays well in the same midfield as Henderson unless he’s right next to him.
Supporting trio: Salah, Firmino, Mané
Do I even need to explain this?
They all got on the score sheet against Watford, they all looked incredibly deadly and realistically, they’re the only three truly class players that we currently have fit.
If they’re on form, then this trio will be the difference – especially, in my opinion, Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian will be instrumental on his return to his former club with his pressing ability, flair, skill and penchant for creating chances all highly necessary if Liverpool are to get a positive result in this tough away match.
Striker: Dominic Solanke
Possibly the main ‘controversial’ pick is that Solanke is to lead the line for me.
The Englishman was superb in pre-season, scoring three goals and proved he is brilliant at hold up play, dropping deep to link the attack with the midfield and interchanging positions with his attacking teammates.
He’s tall, strong, quicker than he looks and has smart feet and good in-game intelligence for his age.
It really could be worth a punt.