Jurgen Klopp set for major Luis Diaz decision as Liverpool ponder Thiago Alcantara situation

After Saturday’s stumble at home to Tottenham, Liverpool’s visit to Aston Villa offers them another chance to turn the pressure back up on Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

In the same week of the FA Cup final, however, Jurgen Klopp will be giving this particular team selection plenty of thought as the data from his medical department floods in from a busy few weeks.

The season is reaching its conclusion and the visit to Villa Park will see Klopp’s men play their 59th game of an exacting campaign that still offers so much. With Chelsea at Wembley later that week, it will be a balancing act the Liverpool boss must get right.

In the back four, is there a case to be made for Kostas Tsimikas to start? Andy Robertson has been Liverpool’s road-runner at left-back all season and his lung-bursting surge in stoppage time of a tough game at Newcastle last week was evidence of his superlative fitness levels in the closing stages of both games and seasons.

However, the Scotland captain was brought off after 64 minutes against Spurs on Saturday night after lacking his usual potency down that side. The Villa visit could be the perfect time for Tsimikas to come in then as Robertson rests up for Wembley.

Having a fully fit Robertson raring to fly out of the traps in the Cup final could be vital against Chelsea as the two teams lock horns for a fourth time this season later this week.

LFC VERDICT: Liverpool hand Man City advantage but pressure piled on frazzled Pep Guardiola

LFC RATINGS: Thiago good goal Liverpool team-mate fails to make impact vs Spurs

YOUR SHOUT: Rate the Liverpool players after 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur

At the heart of the defence, Joel Matip could return for Ibrahima Konate, who started the game on Saturday due to his recovery pace against a Spurs side who counter-attack. Matip has generally been preferred for Premier League duty and he may be recalled alongside Virgil van Dijk before a big decision is made either way for the FA Cup showpiece.

It’s the type of centre-back luxury Klopp simply didn’t have last season and his rotation in that department has been masterful at times to keep everyone fit and in form. Only Manchester City have a better defensive record as a result with the Reds shipping just 23 goals this term in the Premier League.

In midfield, there are several decisive calls to make. Could this be an opportunity to rest Thiago Alcantara? The Spain international’s form has generally been excellent this calendar year but with the biggest game of the season to date next Saturday, Klopp can ill-afford to be without the former Bayern Munich man for Wembley.

Thiago was injured in the warm-up of the Carabao Cup final against the Londoners at the end of February and is yet to start any of the three games against Thomas Tuchel’s men this term. How Klopp could use Thiago’s class in the heat of the engine room on Saturday. This feels like an ideal chance to give him a breather.

With Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Harvey Elliott all vying for places, there are plenty of combinations for Klopp to mull over against Steven Gerrard’s side. After a good showing at Newcastle last week, it might be another opportunity to bring Milner into the fray to give either Jordan Henderson or Fabinho some respite too.

Sign up to our free brand new and improved Paul Gorst LFC newsletter for the inside track on the Reds with the latest on transfers, matches, FSG and much more by clicking here and choosing ‘Paul Gorst newsletter’ from the right-hand column..

Paul can be found on Twitter @ptgorstFacebook @ptgorst and Instagram @ptgorst

You can email Paul at paul.gorst@reachplc.com.

Naby Keita is the midfielder who has the strongest case for a return to the side, though. Klopp has generally rotated the Guinea international with Henderson in recent weeks and that could once more be on the cards as the former RB Leipzig man continues to play through what is arguably his best run of form and fitness as a Liverpool player since joining in 2018.

Up top, Roberto Firmino could be back in contention for a return to the squad. The Brazilian has been hampered by a foot injury of late but Klopp has been insisting that he is nearing a comeback. That did not happen on Saturday and Monday’s training session will be key to whether or not that is likely to happen.

Should he prove his fitness, Firmino will take a place on the bench and it could be a chance for Diogo Jota to start down the middle given Sadio Mane, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah has been Klopp’s go-to combination for the big games since the Colombian joined at the end of January.

No player has played more than Diaz’s 61 games for clubs and country in this campaign, so maybe this is an ideal juncture to give the tireless South American some time with his feet up? After all, he’s already played 22 times for the Reds since he made his debut in early February against Cardiff City.

And could this even be a rare chance to start Divock Origi? The Belgian was curiously unused from the bench as Liverpool chased a winner against Spurs on Saturday night and he hasn’t started a game since the FA Cup win against Norwich in early March. With so many fixtures already in the legs, it would be a crying shame if Liverpool were unable to give true representations of themselves in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals due to fatigue.

As ever, Klopp has much to ponder for his next team selection.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.