LIVERPOOL VS CARDIFF CITY: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool host Championship side Cardiff City at Anfield tomorrow in the 4th Round of the FA Cup. The Reds are coming off the back of a two week winter break and will be hoping to replicate their success in the League Cup this campaign. Here’s how we think Jürgen Klopp will line up.
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The FA Cup had been wild this season. Nottingham Forest knocked out Arsenal in the 3rd Round and we saw Middlesbrough knock out Manchester United last night. Plymouth Argyle and Kidderminster Harriers also took Chelsea and West Ham to extra time this afternoon.
It’s a reminder that the magic of the FA Cup is still alive and the Reds have to approach the game with the right mindset. Jürgen Klopp will be juggling the need to give his mainstays a game after so long without one, and the need to hand fringe players more minutes.
Liverpool notoriously fall below their usual standards when they return from breaks. The manager always highlights the need for rhythm, and with Leicester visiting Anfield on Thursday night, this game is perfect for his players to get back in the swing of things.
A relatively strong team is expected. The availability of five subs is perfect for a game like this too. It could see a number of players get minutes in their legs after returning from injury. We could even see a certain new signing make his debut. On to the XI then…
Caoimhin Kelleher should get the nod in goal. With Jürgen Klopp already confirming the Northern Irishman will start the League Cup final, it is necessary he gets game time between now and then to stay sharp.
Alisson Becker doesn’t necessarily need the minutes having spent the past fortnight with Brazil and being involved in a quite eventful game against Ecuador. In defence, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson will likely get the nod.
In this run of 7 games in 22 days, Tsimikas will get his time on the pitch and so leaving him out tomorrow shouldn’t be a problem. In the heart of defence, Van Dijk is a likely starter. Alongside him could well be Joe Gomez. The 24 year old has really struggled for minutes this season.
The form and fitness of Joel Matip, coupled with the addition of Ibou Konaté has seen Gomez fall down the pecking order. He’s still a top centre back and we’ve all see what he can do when he’s at his best. To get to that level he needs game time, and the Cups are his best bet.
It would be nice to see him alongside Virgil too for the very first time this season, in what will be a throwback to the title winning partnership that broke all sorts of records. With Matip having the special superpower of hitting the ground running after a break, he could well drop back in for Gomez on Thursday.
Konaté, like Tsimikas, will definitely get minutes over the course of the month. In midfield, there are a couple of players available after a while out. Naby Keita is back after his AFCON exertions whilst Thiago and Elliott have returned to training after long injury layoffs.
The manager now has a number of options to choose from. Sitting at the base of midfield will likely be the skipper. Fabinho, like Ali, was with Brazil over the break and played against Paraguay. He’s another who doesn’t need the minutes.
To the right of Henderson could be the returning Naby Keita, with Curtis Jones keeping his place on the left after impressing last month. The likes of Thiago and Milner will probably get cameos off the bench as the game wears on.
Harvey is almost certain to get minutes off the bench, and that could come on the right wing as he is eased back into action. In attack, Roberto Firmino is a shoo-in down the middle, with Diogo Jota likely to line up on the left.
Oxlade-Chamberlain could then reprise his role on the right wing after scoring in back to back games from that position. The likes of Minamino and Origi will hope to take their place on the bench but one could miss out if Luis Diaz is included in the matchday squad.
Origi has been in training all week after returning from a knee injury that has kept him out since the trip to the San Siro. He offers something different to anyone else in the squad – he’s the only natural number nine. That could see him get the nod over Minamino.
This is a scenario that will play itself out a lot in the coming weeks and months if everyone stays fit. We will see a number of international footballers fail to make the squad all together on matchdays. That’s the by-product of having strong squad depth.
Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Keita, Jones, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Jota.
Subs: Adrian, Matip, Konaté, Tsimikas, Milner, Thiago, Elliott, Diaz, Origi.