INTER MILAN VS LIVERPOOL: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool take on Italian champions Inter Milan tonight at the San Siro as the Champions League knockout stages picks up steam. Yesterday saw PSG beat Madrid with a last gasp Mbappe winner whilst Manchester City thrashed Sporting 5-0 in Portugal. We look at how Liverpool could line up for their glamorous encounter.
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Once again it’s a completely fit squad available to Jürgen Klopp. February has been kind with the injury problems that usually ravage the squad abating. It’s offered a different kind of headache for the manager judging from the past two lineups.
He’s had to leave out some big names from the starting XI with some squad members suffering the ignominy of being left out of the squad completely. It’s testament to the squad depth currently available to the gaffer, one that allows the side to compete on all four fronts.
With that being said who gets into the team tonight? There a number of selection posers for the manager to grapple with, especially in midfield and attack. With five subs available, he’ll seek to refresh his team in the second half as much as possible.
In goal, Alisson Becker will start if fit. He has been in great form recently, winning the Man of the Match award in the last two away trips (to Crystal Palace and Burnley on Sunday). He will have to be at his best again against a dangerous Inter outfit.
Trent and Robbo should line up at fullback with any thoughts of rest and rotation left for the midweek visit of Norwich City. Van Dijk is also a shoo in the heart of defence, with the manager picking either Matip or Ibou Konaté to partner him.
Joel has played twice in the past six days so may be held back for that Norwich game where Virgil will also be due a rest. For that reason I think we’ll see Ibou from the start here. He was imperious last time out at the San Siro.
He basically pocketed Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the last group game against AC Milan and will have a similar job here against Edin Dzeko. Ibou looked shaky in his last appearance (vs Cardiff) and will have to be much improved tonight if selected.
In the middle of the park, Fabinho and Thiago are absolute musts. Their partnership is crucial to the side as they offer a perfect blend of ball winning ability and technical excellence to dictate games from midfield.
Liverpool have won 16 and drawn 1 of the 17 games the duo have started together in midfield. When Thiago was signed, we all salivated at the thought of him bossing big Champions League nights for the side. That hasn’t happened so far though, with Klopp curiously leaving him out at times.
Thiago was left out away to Madrid in the quarter finals last season and the Reds got outclassed in midfield by the world class trio of Casemiro, Kroos and Modric. It was flabbergasting when Thiago was left out for the return leg too. Both times he came on and looked like what we needed from the start.
The manager again dropped Thiago when AC Milan visited in the opening group game this season. He did same when Atletico Madrid also came to Anfield. We won those games and once again Thiago looked the business when he came on.
The Spanish international is in good nick at the minute too after bossing proceedings against Leicester and coming off the bench to manage the game to perfection at Burnley. That he started on the bench on Sunday implies he’ll finally get to start a huge Champions League tie for the club.
The third midfield slot is a toss up between the available options. Henderson, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elliott, Jones and Milner are all available and all have a shout. The gaffer could decide he needs Milner’s experience on a night like this.
Or he could feel Henderson’s leadership and drive is what is needed. Or Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace to get away from his man in midfield and open a game up. Or Elliott’s youthful exuberance. Or Jones’ ball retention ability. Or Naby Keita’s all round game.
He’s spoilt for choice really. I think it’s between Keita and Henderson personally, Klopp usually trusts the skipper on nights like this. Hendo was poor at Burnley however, and sustained a cut on his knee when challenging Pieters after a loose first touch.
He has been ruled fit but I wonder if that little knock will be enough for the manager to sway towards Naby. The trio of Fabinho, Thiago, Keita finished the game on Sunday and looks an exciting combination on paper. Keita has also had his problems on big UCL away days.
He was subbed at halftime at the Bernabeu last season and also dragged at halftime at the Wanda Metropolitano this campaign. Whether the manager trusts him to start another huge away game in Europe remains to be seen.
A similar quandary presents itself in attack with Salah, Mané, Firmino, Jota, Diaz, Minamino and Origi all available. Mo is guaranteed to start as nights like this are tailor made for him. Diogo Jota is also on fire and deserves to start.
A dead leg saw Jota drop to the bench on Sunday but that only means he’s fresh enough to start tonight. Whether that’s through the middle or on the left of the front three depends on whether the gaffer picks Bobby.
The Brazilian hasn’t set pulses racing recently and could be due a rest. Jota therefore starts down the middle with either Mané or Diaz lining up on the left wing. Once again it’s a tough choice to make.
Diaz looked brilliant on his debut last Thursday and could offer a certain level of unpredictability to the attack. Sadio on the other hand marked his return to action with a decent outing at Turf Moor where he set up the only goal of the game.
Sadio is someone the manager trusts having experienced several nights like this and being completely in tune with the tactics and what is required of him. That perhaps gives him a slight edge over Diaz. We should see the Colombian off the bench though.
Even with UEFA allowing twelve subs to be named on the bench, we could still see Curtis Jones fail to make the matchday squad again. It’s ridiculous the riches currently available to the manager.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Salah, Jota, Mané.
Subs: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Tsimikas, Milner, Keita, Elliott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Diaz, Firmino, Minamino, Origi.