Jurgen Klopp will be without just three first-team players when Liverpool lock horns with Cardiff City at Anfield on Saturday evening.
The marquee match of Gameweek 10 will be played between Manchester City and Tottenham on Monday. But, before that, Liverpool will have the opportunity to storm into the lead in the Premier League title race and build pressure on the champions when they host Cardiff City and Anfield on Saturday.
The Reds are on the cusp of creating history on the defensive front. And, their pursuit of a club record 10th successive Premier League clean sheet at home will be helped by the availability of a fully fit defensive unit, with Klopp’s only sticking point being the choice of personnel.
While Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson and Joe Gomez seem to be automatic selections currently, the dilemma is presented by Dejan Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold. In recent weeks, Lovren seems to have become the preferred option in the Premier League, with Gomez starting as the right-back, and the same trend should continue against Cardiff.
Midfield though, presents a bit of a problem, with each of the unavailable players being from this department. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a long-term absentee, while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita are recovering from their respective hamstring injuries.
Klopp confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Hendersona and Keita will remain unavailable for Liverpool on Saturday, although the two players are well into their return trails. The manager also had a word of praise for his entire squad, which is nearly at full strength.
“For sure not [Keita and Henderson being available against Cardiff]. Both are in a good way but will not be ready for then. You can only play really good football when you train well and you can only train well if the training group is really strong. They are really strong.”
Returning to the aforementioned problem, the absence of Henderson and Keita leaves Klopp with just four recognised midfielders. But, with the Liverpool boss set to employ the 4-2-3-1 formation once again, there is some respite, with only two midfielders expected to start, those being Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner.
Even though Milner and Wijnaldum’s selection means Fabinho will return to the bench again, Klopp was impressed by the Brazilian’s performance, iterating his partnership with Wijnaldum has given him something to think about.
“It looked good, to be honest. It was a game where I thought it made sense to do it like this; it was not because of injuries. We could have lined up differently but I thought before the game it was the right thing to do to have these players in these positions. It was for sure not the last time we’ll use it in this way.”
Upfront, Xherdan Shaqiri will be the X-Factor for Liverpool, having impressed in his role in the new system. The Swiss international will have the usual suspects for company in attack, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah starting to rediscover their swagger.