Jurgen Klopp will surely have eyes on Fabinho against Bournemouth to see if the Brazilian earns a place against Atletico Madrid.
The Brazilian has been out of form since his return from injury. That’s quite worrying, especially after Jordan Henderson’s injury.
The captain has missed Liverpool’s last three games and there’s no guarantee he’ll play against Atletico. If he doesn’t, then Fabinho is the only real option as a holding midfielder.
That isn’t supposed to be a problem, of course. Fabinho has been brilliant since forcing his way into the side a year ago – well worth the £39m Liverpool paid for him.
In fact, before his injury, there were few better holding midfield players around. Unfortunately, the statistics suggest the Reds are better with him.
22 starts have seen Fabinho help with just three clean-sheets this season. When Henderson played the role, Liverpool kept 11 in 13.
Then there are games like midweek against Chelsea, where Fabinho was directly at fault for the first goal. He could have done far better with the second, too.
But it remains that Liverpool’s best XI contains Fabinho when he’s on form. If Klopp wants to play the best team available to him against Atletico, Fabinho should be in it – if he’s on form.
Two things work in his favour. Firstly, Alisson Becker is injured, exacerbating Liverpool’s defensive problems and possibly shifting Klopp towards a more pragmatic midfield.
Secondly, only one midfield player looks a certainty to play – Gini Wijnaldum. Henderson is still a doubt, while the third spot is completely free.
And that’s why Klopp will have his eyes on Fabinho against Bournemouth. Fabinho at his best is a certainty in midfield but if he can’t offer it, Henderson may take his place. And if someone else can perform, they will beat him to the third spot.
But if he’s at his best, there’s no doubt that he’ll play. The free spot is his if he can take it but he’s got to perform.