Here are three changes Liverpool could make if injuries rule Fabinho and Thiago out of the Champions League final. Jurgen Klopp will have to be flexible against Real Madrid.
There’s a very good chance that injuries keep both Thiago and Fabinho out of the UEFA Champions League final. The Times describes it as a ‘race to be fit’ for the match with Real Madrid – prepare to be nervous for this one.
Both players would start in midfield for Liverpool if fit, presumably alongside Jordan Henderson. This could be a disaster, then, but we see three options for Jurgen Klopp if neither player can make it.
Injuries could rule Thiago and Fabinho out
Milner – Keita
A running theme with these options is that Naby Keita becomes an absolute must-start. Henderson would have to drop back and play the holding midfield role, bringing Keita in alongside a partner.
The most obvious of those is James Milner. Liverpool’s vice-captain has been fantastic in recent weeks and would add leadership, energy and experience to midfield for the final.
Now, the instinctive reaction to this midfield is negative – there’s no getting around that. But we think it could be the go-to and when you consider it, it’s not all that bad. You get a lot of high-energy pressing competent passing. And having both Henderson and Milner on the pitch could get the best out of Keita.
Jamie Carragher described him as a ‘strange’ player this week and we’d go along with that. Keita boasts incredible talent but often lacks the focus to bring things together. Having both the captain and vice-captain on the pitch could help cover the Guinean and get the most out of him.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – Keita
A different option means Liverpool conceding that they won’t control the midfield without Fabinho and Thiago. They can instead focus on pure aggression, bringing in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with a license to just drive the ball forward. It was something he did very, very well in January.
This living by the heavy-metal-football (to use an overused phrase) or dying by the heavy-metal-football. Liverpool simply trust their players to move forward quickly and attack any space that Real Madrid leave in midfield.
It’s worked for them in the past, even if recent years have seen the Reds move towards a more controlled game. But if that’s not an option, why not bring back the chaos?
Henderson – Keita
We’d be shocked if Klopp went 4-2-3-1 from the get-go but it’s a second-half option. He can bring in Roberto Firmino as a no.10 and use Henderson and Keita as a two-man shield. It would be their job to stop the pass into Karim Benzema, while facing up Luka Modric and Toni Kroos man-to-man.
But this would be about shutting down Casemiro. The Brazilian is arguably the world’s best defensive midfielder. That’s a problem for a Liverpool side who want their False 9 dropping into that space. With Firmino as a no.10, though, he can give his compatriot a second player to worry about.
Casemiro is good but not enough to stop both Firmino and Sadio Mané from moving about between the lines. This is the all-out attack option for Liverpool and one that might end up being necessary.