Takumi Minamino might have an important role to play against Preston North End later today. Liverpool need to soften a series of injury blows.
Liverpool don’t have a complete squad to choose from against Preston North End. Problems particularly stick out in midfield, though – especially after the weekend.
Thiago and Harvey Elliott remain injured, of course, and Fabinho joined them on Sunday. The game against Manchester United saw both James Milner and Naby Keita leave the field with injuries, too.
Pep Linjders doesn’t believe any of the players mentioned will be able to play at Deepdale. But we think Jordan Henderson is an obvious absentee, too.
The captain played 90 minutes against Atletico Madrid and another 90 against United. It just doesn’t seem sensible to play him in an EFL Cup game against Championship opposition.
That leaves only two – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones. Jones is only just back from injury himself, though. We’re also not sure it makes sense to use both of them when they’re the only fully-fit midfielders.
Academy players are there, of course, and we expect them to play. James Balagizi and Tyler Morton both missed the Under 23 games on Monday – they’ll surely face Preston.
Will they start, though? We’re not sure. Perhaps one of them does. But as Liverpool try to strike a midfield balance, we think they’ll turn to Takumi Minamino.
Minamino vs Preston
Minamino is not a natural centre-midfielder at all. He lacks physicality for the role and typically plays much better in the forward line.
But we have seen Liverpool use him in the role and today, it feels like the smart thing to do. The Reds will want to attack Preston and using the forward in midfield certainly allows them to do that.
He’s also extra experience if Liverpool do start someone like Morton in the holding role. Having Minamino and potentially Oxlade-Chamberlain on either side would benefit the teenager.
But there’s another consideration here – that forward line. Kaide Gordon almost certainly would have started this one. He’s injured, however, and almost certainly won’t play.
Divock Origi seems like a certainty but Minamino is the only other obvious squad player. We think Liverpool might play one of either Sadio Mane or Diogo Jota as they didn’t start back-to-back games like the others but that’s still only two.
Minamino would slot in nicely on the right of the front-three. It’s a position that he plays well, too, and would hand him his best opportunity of making a good impression.
Because that’s the problem with Minamino. Yes, he can play centre-midfield at a push but he won’t shine there. We can’t see how he could perform well enough to earn minutes as a midfielder.
If we’re to get the best of Minamino, he should be in an advanced role. But instead, the team might need him as a centre-midfielder today.
Liverpool will almost certainly turn to Minamino to soften their injury blows against Preston. His versatility, however, might cost him a proper chance to show what he can do.