Liverpool welcome League Two side Plymouth Argyle to Anfield this weekend, looking to progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Manager Jurgen Klopp knows that anything other than a win for his side would be hugely embarrassing for the club so victory will be demanded from whatever side he puts out.
Fixture congestion around this time last year meant that he had to field a team made up almost entirely of under-21 and fringe squad players (some of whom were making their senior debuts) against Exeter, a move that ended with an awkward 2-2 draw at St. James’s Park.
Although Klopp probably won’t go to those extreme lengths this time (as the fixture list is a bit kinder), he is still likely to rotate. Speaking to reporters ahead of this weekend’s game, Klopp outlined snippets of his thoughts regarding team selection, as well as who will miss the fixture through injury.
Joel Matip and Philippe Coutinho will not be risked, nor will James Milner or Jordan Henderson, while Daniel Sturridge still hasn’t returned to training after the injury he picked up at Sunderland earlier in the week.
With Sadio Mané also unavailable through involvement in the African Cup of Nations, Liverpool will look very different on Sunday.
Klopp all-but confirmed that Karius would be returning to the Liverpool starting lineup for Sunday. The 23-year-old was originally supposed to be Simon Mignolet’s replacement but a number of underwhelming performances forced the manager to take him out of the firing line.
How Karius plays in this game could have a big bearing on his future at the club.
Right-Back: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Centre-Back: Lucas Leiva
Centre-Back: Joe Gomez
Left-Back: Alberto Moreno
The likelihood is that all of Liverpool’s starting defenders will be rested, especially with an EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Southampton to come three days later.
Young Alexander-Arnold has been used by Klopp in the EFL Cup thus far, as have Lucas and Moreno, and this will probably the case in this early round of the FA Cup too.
The big talking point, however, will be the inclusion of Joe Gomez. The England under-21 international began last season as a first-choice defender in Brendan Rodgers’ side, though a serious injury put him out of action for over a year. However, Klopp heavily implied that he would be starting against Plymouth, saying it “wouldn’t be the biggest surprise” if he got the nod.
Defensive Midfield: Kevin Stewart
Centre Midfield: Gini Wijnaldum
Centre Midfield: Ovie Ejaria
Kevin Stewart has built up a status as a Klopp favourite – despite rarely being handed Premier League minutes the Liverpool manager has resisted all attempts from other clubs to sign him. He has started in Liverpool’s cup games so far and there is little reason why that should change at the weekend.
Ovie Ejaria is a highly-rated prospect in the Liverpool youth set-up. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder has made two (brief) substitute appearances in the Premier League this season, as well as playing in all three of the side’s EFL Cup games, so he can be expected to start.
The final midfield spot would normally be taken by Serbian international Marko Grujic – but with the 20-year-old still suffering with the effects of a tendon injury, and Cameron Brannagan also injured, either of Gini Wijnaldum or Emre Can are likely to be asked to fill the void in midfield.
Right Wing: Ben Woodburn
Left Wing: Sheyi Ojo
Striker: Divock Origi
Ben Woodburn is yet to start a senior game for Liverpool, but that could all change on Sunday. The extremely highly-rated forward shot to the wider country’s attention when he became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer in a 2-0 win against Leeds earlier this season, and the 17-year-old could be given the chance to impress even further against Plymouth.
Sheyi Ojo, meanwhile, has endured a tough few months. The winger finished last season strongly, making a number of Premier League starts for the side and looking like seriously pushing for a first team role in this campaign. However, a back injury has ruled him out up until recently, so he will be determined to make up for lost time.
Unless Klopp decides to go left field and call up someone like Harry Wilson or Brooks Lennon from the youth team, then it is likely that Divock Origi will start up front. The manager will be somewhat apprehensive about playing the Belgian international with tough games against Southampton and Manchester United in the days after, but there is very little alternative.
Read More About: alberto moreno, ben woodburn, divock origi, FA Cup, Georginio Wijnaldum, joe gomez, jurgen klopp, kevin stewart, Liverpool, loris karius, Lucas Leiva, ovie ejaria, plymouth, sheyi ojo, trent alexander-arnold