Jurgen Klopp has earned the right so far to pick whoever he wants, but his decision to leave in-form Daniel Sturridge on the bench throughout last night’s Europa League semi-final left fans shaking their heads.
We outplayed the Spaniards for the majority of the game, but had no killer instinct and carved out few glaring opportunities, although still should have scored through Joe Allen and then Alberto Moreno.
The boss though has explained he chose Roberto Firmino because the Brazilian is more familiar with the 4-3-3 used at El Madrigal.
Firmino played as a false-9 during superb wins away at Manchester City and Chelsea earlier in the season, and Klopp clearly thought it could work again.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Klopp said, reported by ESPN.
“I thought about a lot of things and at the end I decided for a little bit more stability.
“In a 4-3-3 we didn’t play with Daniel until now, so we thought for today — this 4-3-3, 4-5-1, sometimes a diamond, this very flexible style — it makes sense that the players played together before and that’s why we decided for this lineup.”
The problem was the stable system worked for the entire game bar the defensive head-loss at the death, but we had no focal point when we got in our good positions. Our attack was crying out for the injection of quality Sturridge would provide, especially when it was clear that we are a better footballing side than the Spaniards.
Now we head to Anfield 1-0 down and without an away goal, and it’ll take a big effort at home to progress to the final.
Sturridge is nailed on to start that one, and we’ll need his clinical finishing more than ever.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Sturridge plays a part at the weekend against Swansea, or if Klopp will choose to keep him fresh for Villarreal. Either way, dropping him last night was a mistake.