LIVERPOOL VS VILLARREAL: PREDICTED LINEUP
Liverpool host Villarreal tonight in the first leg of their Champions League semi final tie. Manchester City and Real Madrid played out a seven goal thriller last night in the other semi, but the Reds will be aiming for a more straightforward night. Here’s our predicted team for the clash.
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Jürgen Klopp has almost a fully fit squad to choose from, with only Roberto Firmino absent through injury. The Brazilian has missed the last two games with a foot injury. Kostas Tsimikas was absent from training yesterday but there’s no word yet on his availability.
Liverpool come into this clash following a hard earned 2-0 victory over local rivals Everton on Sunday. Villarreal meanwhile haven’t played since a 2-0 win over Valencia eight days ago. Jürgen Klopp could well make one or two changes to his side but you can expect him to go as strong as possible.
In goal will be Alisson Becker. The Brazilian has been a pillar of consistency this season and will be looking for his 25th clean sheet of the season. He has pulled off several one on ones saves and will likely be called upon to make one or two more if Villarreal are able to spring Danjuma on the break.
In defence, there’s a possibility we will see a change at centre back. The manager has rotated Konaté and Matip to perfection throughout the season. That has helped the Cameroonian stay fit all season. It is therefore likely Konaté will come in once again for Matip tonight.
Ibou has enjoyed a solid first season at the club and is in good goalscoring form having netted in each of his last three appearances. His recovery pace is an added advantage as Villarreal’s game plan will be centred almost entirely around counter attacks.
Alongside the 22 year old will be the calming presence of Van Dijk. The Dutchman has thankfully not suffered any ill effects after recovering from an ACL tear. Tonight would mark his 45th appearance for the side this season. He will have to set that offside trap to perfection against their pacy forwards.
In the midfield of the park, Fabinho is a certainty. He remains an important cog in this side and will have to keep tabs on the slippery Trigueros tonight. Henderson is likely to lead the side out after dropping to the bench for the derby. He will line up on the right of midfield and look to offer support to Salah and Trent.
His energy and intensity will be key to keeping Parejo quiet. On the left of midfield it’s a toss up between Thiago and Keita. The Spanish international is in ridiculous form of late and will start if the sports science department give the all clear.
He’s another who has been carefully managed this season. He’s already made more appearances this season (31) than he managed last (30). He has started each of the last three games and as such could see his influence limited to a cameo off the bench here.
In the form he’s in, it’s almost unthinkable to leave him out of such a crucial game. Especially one where his quality on the ball will be required to unlock a stubborn Villarreal defence. Any rest will as a result be saved for the trip to Newcastle on Saturday.
In attack, the manager will probably switch back to the trio he used against City (at Wembley) and United. That will see Luis Diaz start on the left, with Sadio through the middle and Mo on the right. The Colombian was electric off the bench in the derby and will look to attack Foyth at every opportunity.
There will be options on the bench for the manager, and especially with the five substitutes rule, he can change the shape and reinforce the side in the second half if he wishes. We could even see Origi and a switch to 4-2-3-1 again if Villarreal prove tough to break down.
Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Dijk, Robertson, Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago, Salah, Mané, Diaz.
Subs: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Tsimikas, Milner, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Jota, Origi, Elliott, Minamino.