Jurgen Klopp will be caught between two minds as he picks his team to face Aston Villa today. The Liverpool boss has a lot to consider.
What’s the bigger game – today’s or Wednesday’s? There’s no easy answer, of course.
The game against Real Madrid is a very difficult task, after all. It’s all well and good saying Champions League progression is more important but Liverpool need to win by at least two at Anfield.
And that has felt impossible in 2021.
So should Liverpool really prioritise a task like that? Jurgen Klopp has to answer that when he picks his team to face Aston Villa today.
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Ideally, Liverpool win both. That’s the dream scenario, one that gets them into the Champions League semi-finals and sees them put up a fight for top-four.
But that’s tough. Liverpool looked leggy in Madrid and certain players need to rest – but can Klopp afford to rest them?
Villa tore Liverpool to pieces at Villa Park, after all. The Reds can’t afford a repeat of that, which suggests going full-strength today.
But that will have a knock-on effect. Klopp admits that certain players were still feeling the game on Friday and that he hadn’t got his fitness update yet.
Thus some surely can’t afford to play a full 90 against Villa and then start on Wednesday.
There is no easy answer here and in truth, it’ll surely come down to long-term fitness assessments and who Klopp considers to be reliable cover.
Take Andy Robertson, for instance. His fitness is impeccable and he plays virtually every game. While his cover, Kostas Tsimikas, isn’t established at the club.
Thus we feel it’s relatively safe to say the Scot faces Villa and Real.
But Sadio Mane is in a different spot. He’s not playing well and Klopp does like to rest him. He can afford to do so, too, as he has four solid options for his front-three.
At the same time, though, Diogo Jota is just back from injury. Klopp may want to give him a little break ahead of Wednesday.
Essentially, there’s no easy answer to all of this. Klopp has a very difficult task on his hands and it’s one he must nail.
The aim will be winning both games. We’ll see how possible that is later today.