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Between cup fixtures and Premier League ones, Jurgen Klopp has mostly been rotating his outfield players so as to keep them at maximum possible freshness.
And it’s for this reason we think it’s pretty clear who’ll start next weekend against Aston Villa.
Simon Mignolet will keep his spot in goal, while the first-choice fullbacks will return – although Jon Flanagan and Brad Smith have a genuine right to expect an opportunity soon. This means we think Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno will start. In central defence, Klopp will almost certainly select Mamadou Sakho, while he’s likely to stick with Kolo Toure as well, despite the ageing Ivorian’s shaky recent form.
Sakho and Toure have not been a good pairing, so we can only hope they find it easier against the worst team in the Premier League this season.
In midfield, the three regular starters who sat out the West Ham fixture will come back in – meaning Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and James Milner will regain their places barring late injury.
Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino sat out against the Irons and will definitely come back in, but after Klopp subbed Coutinho off after the hour in the FA Cup – our no.10 should be fit enough for the front-three.
So if we’re right, Liverpool will start something like this at the weekend…
Klopp’s likely XI:
We’d select a slightly different side to the one Klopp is likely to, keeping some of the players who played minutes in the FA Cup tie.
After all, Tuesday to Saturday is a decent break.
In defence, we’d start Lucas over Toure. The Brazilian has done well here whenever called upon at centre-back and would provide a far more stable presence. Sakho’s been dodgy recently, but with Steven Caulker, Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren all injured, he has to keep his spot.
We’d also slightly rejig the midfield by selecting Adam Lallana in the three rather than James Milner. The Can/Milner/Henderson triumvirate has been stale for most of the season and we’d hope Lallana would inject some ball retention skills and creativity.
By bringing Lallana deeper, we open up a space in the front-three for Daniel Sturridge. We don’t imagine Klopp will pick him twice in a week, but we’d prefer he played the first hour and was withdrawn after already having a real impact on the game.
This will enable Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sturridge to play together on the field for the first time this season.
It’s February. Unbelievable!
What d’you think Reds? Who’d you go for?
The XI we’d choose: