Jurgen Klopp can’t know what his strongest XI is right now – but it doesn’t matter until the Atletico Madrid game.
Injuries and fine performances have turned things upside down. Before December, for instance, things were pretty clear.
The Champions League-winning XI of last season was still the go-to, with Joel Matip partnering Virgil van Dijk in defence and Fabinho in front alongside Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum. The fullbacks, goalkeeper and front-three picked themselves as they had done all year.
Now, however, things are different. Both Fabinho and Matip picked up injuries that still rule them out. In their stead, Henderson and Joe Gomez have performed incredibly.
In fact, they’ve been so good that the injuries now look like positives. Jurgen Klopp has more elite options at his disposal, knowing that Henderson and Gomez can perform in those roles and the team still works flawlessly.
The arguable downside of that is Klopp no longer knowing what his strongest XI is. Fabinho is superior to Henderson in that holding role but Liverpool are playing their best defensive football of the season. Matip was fantastic alongside Van Dijk but again – Liverpool are playing their best defensive football without him.
But Liverpool’s enormous Premier League lead gives the boss a wonderful luxury. Klopp doesn’t need to know his best XI until they face Atletico next month.
Liverpool will be strong favourites in every game remaining domestically, other than the trip to the Etihad in April. Before then, the Reds will expect to win every game, even if they swap the side around a bit.
That’s something Klopp will want to do, too. He will want to try things out and see if Fabinho and Matip – and now Takumi Minamino – improve things at all. Or is this current setup the best way to go?
They can do that knowing full well that a couple of dropped points on the rare occasion things go wrong, isn’t a huge problem. That’s brilliant freedom, where Liverpool can search for their best XI without pressure and in time for the Champions League.