Liverpool face a tough trip to Leeds today and we think that it is the perfect game for Thiago Alcantara to make his first start of the season.
The Reds have had a decent start to the campaign, with two wins and one draw.
They will be hoping to continue this unbeaten run against Marcelo Bielsa’s men, who have picked up two points from their opening three Premier League fixtures.
Liverpool have been affected by a FIFA ruling that may prevent Brazilian stars Fabinho and Alisson from playing a part in the game. They were not permitted to play for their side during the recent international break due to fears over Covid-19.
So, the Brazilian FA lodged a complaint, and FIFA ruled the duo, plus the already injured Roberto Firmino ineligible to play against Leeds.
Even though they have now been cleared, Jurgen Klopp may choose to leave the duo out due to their lack of preparation.
Well, Alisson will play, but the coaches may have been planning for the game without Fabinho in mind. They will have been doing tactical training with the starting side all week, so they may decide against changing things up at this late stage.
This is just one reason that we believe that Thiago Alcantara will start this game.
Having not featured for Spain in the recent break, he will be fit and ready to go.
Yet even if it wasn’t for the whole Brazil debacle, we would suggest that the 30-year-old should start anyway.
He was in great form at the end of last season. The time is now right for him to get back into the swing of things.
Leeds will be open – Thiago has the ability to punish
Playing against a side like Leeds should suit Thiago down to the ground.
Let’s just have a quick rundown of how Bielsa sets his side up. It will probably be a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Kalvin Phillips as the sitting midfielder.
Stuart Dallas will be one of the central players in front of him. Either Mateusz Klich or Rodrigo will join him.
One thing that Leeds are better than anyone in the league at is running. They are probably the only side around that can out-work Liverpool.
However, their running game can leave spaces to be exploited in defence. We saw this in their opening day hammering by Manchester United.
In that game, the Red Devils’ passing from deep ripped Leeds apart, with Paul Pogba in particular starring.
We think that Thiago could have a similar impact for Liverpool.
The Whites won’t leave him with much time on the ball, and we expect the likes of Phillips and Dallas to press him every time he receives it. However, Thiago has the sense to pick up the ball in a deeper area, thus sucking the Leeds midfield higher up the pitch and leave space in behind for the likes of Mo Salah to attack.
We reckon that Thiago is good enough to beat that press and exploit this space with a killer pass. We think that this little tactic could be the best way to score against this Leeds outfit.
While Gini Wijnaldum’s departure will see Liverpool move away from the “workman-like midfield” of old to an extent, they still wouldn’t be outrunning the Elland Road side.
So, we have to play to our strengths. That means keeping the ball before finding the right time to strike.
Jordan Henderson will ensure that the Reds are in the physical battle. So, Thiago and perhaps Naby Keita or Harvey Elliott can do the damage.
Even if Fabinho plays, the plan will stay the same.
The midfield battle will be key in this game. Picking Thiago should give Liverpool their best chance of victory.
Let’s wait and see if Jurgen Klopp agrees.