Liverpool face Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday in a top-of-the-table clash and Jurgen Klopp must not select Nathaniel Phillips, as the 23-year-old’s lack of mobility would surely be exposed by Manchester United’s lightning-fast front three.
It would be something of a ruthless decision from Klopp to omit the former VFB Stuggart loanee completely, considering he has averaged a strong 7.19 rating across his three appearances in the top-flight so far this season.
He was also impressive in his last appearance, helping the Reds keep a clean sheet in the 0-0 draw against Newcastle, for which he earned a solid 7.1 rating.
After making his Premier League debut for Liverpool in the 2-1 win against West Ham earlier in the season, Klopp was full of praise for the English defender, saying:
“He’s a brilliant guy, smart guy, intelligent, everything. He’s not easy on the eye, he’s not Messi but who cares?
“In the air, he’s a monster! He was incredible.”
However, Phillips is yet to be tested against a top-four side and has shown vulnerabilities in his appearances against Brighton and Newcastle as he struggled to cope with quick attackers running in behind him from balls over the top.
Therefore, it would be unwise to risk him against a side that possesses attacking talent such as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, as both of the United strikers are extremely quick, and if Bruno Fernandes is allowed time in possession, he could easily find one of those two with a through ball that exploits Phillips’ lack of pace.
So far this season, Fernandes has assisted Rashford on four occasions in the Premier League, which is the joint-second most combination in the top-flight, behind Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane, so it is clear that they will be two of United’s most dangerous players on Sunday.
Rashford is certainly one of United’s quicker players, so will no doubt be looking to cause the Liverpool defence problems with his speed on Sunday and after it was revealed that Joel Matip has returned to training, Klopp must consider restoring the Cameroonian international to his side.
If he opts to start Phillips, who reportedly earns £70k per week at Liverpool, he could have his recent strong performances ruined if the 23-year-old United forward were to get the better of him at Anfield in what is a hugely important game for both sides.