Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp can test a first-time partnership against Aston Villa. It has the potential to be a season-defining moment for the team.
Aston Villa in the FA Cup is a tough one to judge. Jurgen Klopp usually leans towards weakened sides in the competition but there’s a chance at an easy win here.
Dean Smith says he’ll likely rotate and as Liverpool push through a bad run of form, they may fancy a win. After all, there’s a chance at a Double here – something Liverpool haven’t managed since 1986.
We expect a hybrid, then. A weakened side but not to the extent of simply playing the kids. The back two might be quite inexperienced, though.
This game offers a chance to partner Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips together in defence. They’re the two most senior and fit centre-halves at the club right now – but they haven’t started a game together.
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That’s certainly an unusual statistic for any team.
There’s a good chance they finally form a Liverpool partnership against Villa, though. And if they do, it could be season-defining.
Ideally, Liverpool wouldn’t use either player. They kind of have to, though, given injuries to every other centre-half.
One of the two typically plays alongside Fabinho – but he’s not a natural defender. Liverpool would almost certainly want to move the Brazilian back into midfield.
But to do that, either Williams or Phillips need to prove they’re reliable. Potentially, reliable enough to play alongside one another.
It doesn’t sound as though Liverpool are signing anyone this month, thus the duo will have roles for the rest of the season.
Proving themselves and looking reliable would allow Liverpool a lot more freedom as they chase trophies. They could move Fabinho, they could rest more players and they could have more numbers.
That freedom is vital as Liverpool try to move out of their poor form. Klopp could simply try more.
Friday against Villa is a good test, then. They wouldn’t have a senior defender there to help them, forcing at least one player to step up and fill that void.
If they came out of it looking capable of playing that way against a Premier League team, Liverpool could feel more confident about the rest of their season.
If they look out of their depth, then Liverpool would know they must act in January.