Liverpool’s squad is packed with an array of world-class option and Jurgen Klopp has some big decisions to make this weekend ahead of the clash with Manchester City.
Getting the team selection right is key and Liverpool have plenty of options to consider. Here are four decisions facing Klopp…
Keep the defence or get Matip in?
Liverpool’s back-four is good at the moment, keeping clean sheets in three consecutive Champions League matches.
Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips are likely to be rotated regularly to partner Joe Gomez in the heart of the defence, but for the trip to the Etihad Stadium, Klopp may consider bringing in Joel Matip.
Matip’s experience in big matches gives him the edge over both Williams and Phillips who are yet to feature for Liverpool against such a formidable opponent.
The Cameroonian defender may be injury-prone, but as showcased during his most recent outing against Everton, he always delivers when he is on the pitch.
Matip’s expert reading of the game coupled with his aerial dominance will help us against the likes of Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus.
The tactical tweak could see Klopp utilise his 36th alternate central defensive pairing since he took charge of the Reds back in 2015.
Does Thiago come back in?
There is no hiding away from the fact that such mammoth occasions are built for players such as Thiago Alcantara.
Remarkably, the Spaniard has only clocked up just competitive one start (Everton (A)) since his Champions League final victory against PSG back in August.
He has had to be patient since arriving on Merseyside due to a number of unforeseen circumstances yet if he is fit there is no denying Thiago is an instant starter.
If Klopp is given the go-ahead by the club’s medical staff there is no question that the Liverpool boss will want to throw him straight back into the starting XI – there isn’t an opponent daunting enough to strike fear into Thiago.
The questions that remain are whether he is actually deemed fit enough to feature and who would he actually come into the team for?
Most likely he will replace Curtis Jones, but Klopp could also consider Premier League veteran James Milner for such a big occasion against his former team.
Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum are likely to complete Liverpool’s midfield triumvirate.
Jota or Firmino?
Diogo Jota is Liverpool’s most likely starter following his heroics against Atalanta in midweek which saw the Portugal international register his first career hat-trick for the Reds.
However, despite his blistering form, there is still a case to be made for Roberto Firmino.
The Brazilian striker hasn’t been overlooked for such an important Premier League fixture practically since Klopp arrived at the club five years ago.
Klopp could still give Firmino the go-ahead and call on Jota off the bench to tear City apart late-on, as he did against West Ham.
4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1?
Players such as Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson Becker pick themselves for fixtures as significant as this.
The million-dollar question is which formation does Klopp utilise when you consider the quality of the opponent.
Considering how Pep Guardiola’s team love to dominate possession it would be quite the risk for Liverpool to play with just two recognised midfielders against one of the best outlets in world football when it comes to retaining the ball.
If Liverpool deploy the same 4-2-3-1 system Klopp utilised against FC Midtjylland and Sheffield United, we risk getting exposed in the same way Aston Villa were able to do us.
The expected returns of Matip and Thiago could help Klopp incorporate a 4-3-3 system that worked particularly well against Everton as both players provide greater balance and security from a defensive standpoint.
Also, with the inspiring form of Jota, Liverpool have the perfect attacking weapon they can unleash to catch City off-guard.
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- Five things we learned as Reds beat Atalanta 5-0
- Why Atalanta are the perfect opponents for Reds ahead of City clash
- Joel Matip, Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas pictured back in training