Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is likely to hand midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain his first start of the season against Newcastle United this weekend.
Liverpool will travel to St. James’ Park this weekend as they gear up to take on Newcastle United in their penultimate game of the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Currently seated second in the table, a point behind leaders Manchester City, Liverpool have a chance to move to the top and heap pressure on their rivals ahead of their encounter against Leicester City on Monday.
With the all-important Champions League semi-final second leg clash against Barcelona right around the corner, it is likely to play on Jurgen Klopp’s mind with regard to team selection. No changes are expected between the sticks with Alisson Becker the undisputed first-choice goalkeeper for Liverpool.
But, there could be a couple of tweaks in the defence protecting him on Saturday. Trent Alexander-Arnold did not start against Barcelona earlier in the week and should replace Joe Gomez at right-back. Dejan Lovren is in line for a start in place of Joel Matip, with Virgil van Dijk and Andrew Robertston rounding up the Reds’ backline.
There is a fresh injury blow for Liverpool in the midfield department as Naby Keita has been ruled out for the season after he picked up an adductor injury against Barcelona. Speaking of the Guinean in his pre-match presser, Klopp said, “He was in a really good moment – a really, really good moment – but it happened, that’s how football and life sometimes are. It’s not too nice, but it’s very serious.”
This should open up a spot in the starting XI for Saturday’s game, which could very well be taken up by the fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The England international returned from his long-term injury absence to make his first appearance of the season in the 5-0 win over Huddersfield last weekend and looked lively. He could be set for his first start of the 2018-19 season.
The other two slots in the middle of the park could also see changes, with captain Jordan Henderson likely to start after being used as an early substitute for Keita in the last match. Fabinho could be given a breather ahead of the Barcelona game, with Georginio Wijnaldum likely to drop into the No. 6 role after having featured as a forward in the midweek clash.
Given that Liverpool cannot afford a slip-up at this point, Klopp is unlikely to rest either of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for Saturday’s game. Both the Reds’ attackers will have their eye on the Premier League Golden Boot race. Roberto Firmino though, may not be risked again after his recent recovery from a muscle tear.
Asked about the possibility of the Brazilian starting in the press conference, Klopp said: “We will see.” Firmino is likely to be on the bench again, as was the case against Barcelona, with Klopp likely to utilise him at later stages only if there is a need. That would mean Divock Origi could get a rare start in attack against Newcastle.