While Liverpool are yet to qualify for the Champions League Round of 16, Jurgen Klopp has the freedom to experiment against Atletico Madrid.
The gaffer might disagree and would certainly publicly say he doesn’t want to disrespect Atletico Madrid but, with the La Liga side under-strength with four absentees this evening, Liverpool can test the waters somewhat.
By winning the opening three games of the campaign, Klopp ensured that his side is in the strongest possible position to achieve qualification for the knockout stages of the tournament.
At the Wanda Metropolitano, Liverpool were guilty yet again of throwing away a 2-0 lead. While I don’t think there is any complacency in this group of players, there is a lack of control in midfield without Thiago, who joined for £27.3million.
The latter was introduced after the half-time interval for Naby Keita and, while the Guinean was playing well, Fabinho’s steel and composure were required and the gamble from Klopp ultimately paid off.
This evening, with Thiago back in training, I hope we see the Spaniard back in the side even if he only gets 60 minutes on his return to the starting XI, as the maestro is arguably the best midfield dictator in the Premier League.
His ability to read the game and dictate the tempo at will, while keeping his finger on the pulse of the match in order to burst forward and start an attack, is world-class.
This is what was missing when Liverpool conceded their two-goal lead to Diego Simeone’s men in the space of 14 minutes and the same thing happened against Manchester City.
The frustrating thing about that game was that I could see it coming as Liverpool were never fully in control of the match. Had it not been for Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane’s excellence in the final third, as well as some world-class goalkeeping from Alisson Becker, City might have repeated their 4-1 win at Anfield from last season.
Brighton are a good side and I’ll hear very few criticisms of a side doing some fantastic work under Graham Potter. But Liverpool, a side that has Premier League and Champions League title ambitions, should be embarrassed about conceding a two-goal lead to the Seagulls.
They could have lost as well but Leandro Trossard was offside when he rounded Alisson to find the back of the net.
It is a worrying trend but, hopefully, Klopp feels brave enough to experiment at Anfield this evening. The trip to the London Stadium to face West Ham is a must-win game as Liverpool cannot allow the gap at the top of the league between them and Chelsea to grow to six points.