Jurgen Klopp faces a difficult choice for the rest of the season – Xherdan Shaqiri or Harvey Elliott. Both will want games and both arguably need them.
We don’t expect either winger to start on Wednesday but there’s a very good chance that one comes on. Mohamed Salah played the full 90 minutes against Aston Villa, after all, and Liverpool have a game against Burnley coming up.
But who is the best replacement? Who deserves the minutes? It’s a difficult choice for Klopp as both players could really use them. For completely different reasons, too, and each could play an important part next season.
Take Shaqiri, for instance. He’s barely featured this season and is coming back from injury. The fact that the season was postponed actually played into his hands, in fact, as it gave him an opportunity to return.
If the season had ended in May, Shaqiri would have finished it with no appearances since January. Instead, he can play a part in the remaining games.
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And that’s important as he could still be at the club next season. Liverpool might not sign anyone for the season consecutive summer, meaning Shaqiri staying works in their favour. He’d be a squad player, of course, but a very solid and experienced one.
He needs games, though. Shaqiri hasn’t played too much football and the remaining five games are an opportunity to get him going properly ahead of the next campaign.
But if Shaqiri takes up that spot on the right-wing, Elliott can’t. And like with Shaqiri, Liverpool have an unforeseen opportunity to give him games.
There’s nothing riding on the remaining games, after all, meaning Klopp can play youngsters without the usual pressure. We saw Curtis Jones get his first Premier League goal at the weekend and that’s a huge step for a young player – it would be wonderful to see Elliott do the same before the season is out.
If he does, he could develop very quickly and become a solid first-team option in no time at all.
But he needs minutes in his best position to make that happen and they’re minutes at the expense of Shaqiri.
So what’s more important – ensuring an experienced, reliable player is firing for next season or giving a teenage prodigy extra time to develop?
It’s a really tough choice and one Klopp will have to make over the next five games.