Jurgen Klopp says he’s prepared to take a risk with his lineup against Manchester United tomorrow. The Liverpool boss will certainly have a tough decision to make.
It appears Ozan Kabak won’t play against Manchester United. The defender hasn’t been formally ruled out but he certainly isn’t back in training. Liverpool’s team news suggests he will be missing.
And that creates a problem. Nat Phillips will almost certainly start at centre-back but he needs a partner. With Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Kabak all out, however, it’s not obvious who that player should be.
In isolation, Fabinho is the obvious choice. He’s a magnificent player who has played very well at centre-back this season. Him and Phillips is the strongest centre-back pairing available.
But it comes at a cost. Liverpool are undoubtedly better with Fabinho in midfield. He holds the central trio together, allowing the likes of Thiago and Gini Wijnaldum to focus on their own duties, rather than defence.
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Not to mention the adding benefit to the centre-backs. Their jobs are a whole lot easier with Fabinho shielding them.
There’s only one other real option at centre-back, though – Rhys Williams. The 20-year-old is wildly inexperienced but Jurgen Klopp has used him quite frequently this season. Williams played there against Southampton at the weekend and while he wasn’t perfect, the Reds did keep a clean sheet.
And it appears Klopp could put him in the lineup to face United, too.
“Yes,” said Klopp on if he could use Williams against United.
“We train from time to time and you cannot just put a boy on the pitch if he’s not in the shape for that in that moment – you have to find another solution.
“You don’t line a player up, especially not a young one, and hope it will work out. But in the moment when boys show up in training, when they have a momentum in training, these kind of things, then is a good moment for that.
“Rhys, for example, is now in a really good moment and that helps obviously. Who we will line up, we will see.”
Klopp could take a lineup risk vs United
This would be a big risk. Liverpool have to win this game to leave themselves with any chance of a top-four finish and Williams may not be ready.
Especially in a partnership with Phillips, who isn’t too experienced himself. We mainly worry about their pace – United are lethal on the counter-attack and Liverpool could be vulnerable.
Still, Klopp has to take a risk somewhere. Either he weakens his midfield or he puts an inexperienced pairing at the back. There’s no ‘right’ answer here, unfortuantely.
All we can hope is that the players Klopp selects have the games of their lives. It feels like the only realistic way Liverpool leave with three points.