Who To Choose?
Posted by Craig Muncey | Published on April 28, 2016
A week fuelled with emotion, when finally the truth came out that the 96 football fans lost their lives unlawfully, Liverpool FC are hours away from a Semi Final first leg in Spain against Villareal. Jurgen Klopp due to injuries and a player being unavailable for other reasons, finds himself with a few key decisions to make. This article looks at those decisions and then for what it’s worth, what I think he will pick for tonight at Estadio El Madrigal.
First decision is who to start in goals, Simon Mignolet had another one of those games last weekend, which happens far too often. Mignolet, who I have given praise to in recent weeks, looked hesitant and unsure of himself. Klopp’s other option is Danny Ward, the young Welshman, who Klopp was full of praise for after his performance on his league debut against Bournemouth just over a week ago. Would Klopp in such an important game switch Mignolet for Ward now? If Klopp felt was right for the team yes he would, but you have to say Klopp has been very patient with Mignolet and has put his faith in him, I struggle to see anyone other than Mignolet between the sticks tonight.
Defensively, Klopp has to make a decision on who partners Dejan Lovren in the centre of the defence following the absence of Mamadou Sakho. Options are Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Steven Caulker and Lucas Leiva. Skrtel, has been horribly out of sorts, and has not played since the Southampton game, so cannot see him recalled for such a big match. Similarly with Caulker, not been seen for months. Toure, played last weekend, and had a reasonably assured game. Lucas, the few times played at the heart of the defence has been excellent, especially in the League Cup Final against Manchester City, but I believe, Lucas will be required in another position tonight. I believe Toure will get the nod.
Into midfield, and with Emre Can and Jordan Henderson injured, arguably two of his three first choice midfielders, Klopp does have some decisions to make. Has to think of the balance, in a two legged affair against a slick passing team like Villareal, has to be some energy to close down their creative players, plus give protection to a back four missing one of your first choice centre backs. This is where I think Lucas will start in midfield. If Can was fit, I think Lucas would play centre back tonight, but the position Liverpool find themselves, I see Lucas given the role, to sit in front of the defence, provide that protection, in an away two legged tie. With Lucas, I think he will select Joe Allen, to provide composure and the passing in midfield, try to keep the crowd quiet and keep the ball ticking over, and also see James Milner selected, to provide the energy to close players down and cover when necessary in the wider areas.
In attack with Origi out, Klopp has the decision to make between Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke as the furthest man forward unless he decides to play two upfront, but I don’t think he will. He could decide to go with Firmino, with Adam Lallana and Philipe Coutinho off him. This worked like a dream against Manchester City in the league, and Firmino’s goal record when played as furthest forward is very good, and from what I have seen that seems his best position. However, Firmino has not looked at his sharpest in recent weeks, and I think Klopp thinks Liverpool can certainly nick a goal, and I think he will select a player who is sharpest in front of goal if the game has limited chances and that player is Daniel Sturridge. He took his goal against Newcastle superbly, and looked reasonably sharp so I expect him to start. With Sturridge starting, Klopp could then decide to play Coutinho and Firmino just off him, but I think Klopp will considered that too offensive, and will be concerned of the energy levels when we don’t have the ball and movement off the ball, hence why I think Klopp will plump for Coutinho and Lallana just off Sturridge.
So there you have it, the team I expect Klopp to select. He may surprise us, the three in midfield he may have concerns over the ability to pass the ball effectively and also energy levels, so there is an outside chance of someone like Cameron Brannagan being let loose on this big stage, a very nice technical footballer, who maybe suited to the Spanish style of football, would be a big ask, but who knows. Klopp knows best.