Liverpool host Leeds United at Anfield tonight in their latest Premier League clash, and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping that his team can show some resilience by channelling their performance from the Champions League victory over Ajax on Wednesday night.
The Reds may now be qualified for the last 16 in the prestigious European tournament but their form in the Premier League has been poor, shipping a third top-flight defeat of the season to bottom-of-the-table Nottingham Forest last weekend.
Liverpool are now eighth in the league after a slow start to their domestic campaign, but a win over Leeds could see them move up to seventh depending on other results this weekend, and it would certainly be a boost in their efforts to close the gap to the top four.
However, another defeat this weekend could be troublesome for the Merseysiders, as in the worst-case scenario they could drop out of the top half of the table by 6:30pm tomorrow evening.
In terms of injuries, Luis Diaz, Joel Matip, Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and Arthur Melo remain unavailable for selection, but Klopp did offer a huge fitness boost which could make a positive difference in the middle of the park.
In the Liverpool manager’s pre-match press conference, it was revealed that Thiago Alcantara will return to action following a severe ear infection which left him unavailable to play in the Reds’ last two outings.
Klopp told the media (via Liverpool Echo): “I expect Jordan Henderson to be okay. Thiago will return too. It’s still soon for Naby Keita and Matip is still out. You don’t have to ask about Diogo or Luis for a while.”
With all that considered, this is how Football Fancast expects Liverpool to line up against Jesse Marsch’s side tonight…
The first change we expect to see is Ibrahima Konate reprising his role in an otherwise unchanged Liverpool back line alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and Virgil van Dijk.
The second change we predict is the return of Thiago alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield, with the talented playmaker making an instant return from illness to the starting XI as he could provide a real threat to Leeds from the centre of the pitch.
The 31-year-old, who was dubbed a “coach’s dream” by former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac, was noticeably missing in the defeat to Nottingham Forest, and Klopp will be hoping that the Spaniard’s inclusion can inspire a better result when his side host Leeds tonight.
The third and final change we expect to see is Fabio Carvalho returning to the left-hand side of midfield to offer creativity in the channels to assist Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah in the most advanced roles in the final third.
The mooted inclusion of both Carvalho and Thiago means that one starting midfielder from midweek will be subjected to a place on the bench against Marsch’s side, and we predict that it will be Brazilian talent Fabinho who loses his spot in the starting XI.
The 29-year-old – who journalist Hamzah Khalique-Loonat has said looks “jaded” of late – hasn’t been on top of his game this season and could lose his central role if Klopp feels that Henderson can be more reliable to cover the deep-lying defensive role.
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if Liverpool can inject their Champions League form back into their Premier League performances when Leeds visit Merseyside tonight, as it could be catastrophic if the Reds drop more points domestically.