Liverpool must ask Fabinho to do double duty with their starting XI against Aston Villa. The Brazilian is too important.
It’ll be tough for Jurgen Klopp to balance his team this week. He admitted on Friday that he still wasn’t sure who would be fit and who would be missing at the weekend.
Certain players, he says, still felt the effect of the 3-1 defeat against Real Madrid.
And that’s a problem. Liverpool play a big game in the race for top four later today, while they have the return leg in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Klopp can’t afford to rest players in the Premier League but he can’t afford to tire them out ahead of Real at Anfield.
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The answer will be to pick players based on their readiness and, importantly, the quality of their backup. With Roberto Firmino ready to come in, for instance, Klopp can rest one of the forwards.
Thiago and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offer great replacements in midfield for Gini Wijnaldum if the Dutchman is tired.
But with one player, Klopp doesn’t really have a choice. Fabinho has to play against Aston Villa and Real Madrid.
Liverpool have looked a lot better with Fabinho back in midfield. He keeps things far more solid, protects the defence and creates a base to push forward.
There’s also no quality replacement for him with Jordan Henderson on the injury list.
We’re not sure Liverpool can win either game with Fabinho missing. The midfield is a mess without him, while Nat Phillips has already talked about how much easier his job is with the Brazilian in front of him.
But the results speak for themselves. Fabinho returned to the starting XI in midfield against RB Leipzig and Liverpool won 2-0.
They then beat Wolves 1-0 with him there and Arsenal 3-0. The defeat in Madrid ended a fine run – Liverpool’s best of 2021 by a mile.
So we can’t see any reason for rest against either Villa or Real. It’ll mean triple duty for Fabinho, playing three games in eight days.
Hopefully, the fact he didn’t play during the international break gives him the required fitness. Because Liverpool will need him at his best.