James Milner was by far the standout player on the pitch as Liverpool came from behind to return to winning ways in the Premier League against Bournemouth last weekend.
The former England international was outstanding from start-to-finish wearing the armband in the absence of Jordan Henderson. Milner was the embodiment of Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monsters’ rendition and this culminated in the former Aston Villa man producing the moment of the match after he denied Ryan Fraser with a goal-saving clearance.
Milner, 33, was forced to play at left-back and cover for Andy Robertson who was rested as a precaution for tonight’s clash against Atletico Madrid. This will likely mean the Scotsman will return to his defensive duties against the Spanish giants with the only available place in the team for Milner in midfield.
However, with Henderson’s return to training after recovering from a hamstring problem, Milner should be the man to miss out when Klopp names his midfield trident.
Indeed, this is incredibly harsh considering the Englishman’s impact against Bournemouth at the weekend, but if Henderson is deemed fit enough to start then it is a risk the German manager will likely take.
Gini Wijnaldum has proven his worth in crucial knockout matches following his antics against Barcelona last season and is another player who will be called upon with the Reds once again trailing against Spanish opposition.
The final space in Klopp’s midfield should be occupied by Fabinho and this selection is not on merit. Of course, the Brazilian has been far from his best since returning from injury but on his day the man described by Pep Ljinders as Liverpool’s ‘lighthouse’ is one of the best midfielders in Europe.
Fabinho is lacking rhythm but his style of play and hasn’t been as sharp or as quick as we have become accustomed to with the former Monaco man. It is going to take time for Fabinho to rediscover his best and taking him out of the team could hinder his momentum.
Also, it is worth noting that since returning from the international break, it hasn’t been just Fabinho but the whole team that have showcased a dip in form with Liverpool’s recent aura of invincibility temporarily subdued.
Milner will be unfortunate to miss out but Klopp should go with the midfield combination he has utilised more than any other this season.