Liverpool enter into a week that could have a big impact on the remainder of the season, with matches against Porto and Manchester United.
With Jurgen Klopp’s side currently in a battle with Man United for the top four, at least one of the two sides will be dropping points in Saturday’s early kick-off.
First, however, they must navigate past Porto in the second leg of their Champions League last sixteen tie at Anfield on Tuesday night. Liverpool are 5-0 up from the first leg in Dragao and while it’s almost inconceivable that the Reds will be knocked out from such a strong position, Klopp will still want to keep standards high to maintain their strong recent form.
With that in mind, here’s an eleven that should get the job done against Porto and allow the squad to be well-rested for Man United.
Loris Karius. Having been Liverpool’s Champions League goalkeeper since the group stages, the German has beaten off the challenge of Simon Mignolet to establish himself as the side’s first-choice. The temptation might be to rotate and give Mignolet a run-out to keep him fresh, but Karius has steadily improved with a run of games and it would be a shame to potentially upset his confidence for the sake of it.
Joe Gomez. With Trent Alexander-Arnold starting at the weekend, it might be a good idea to start Gomez at right back in this game, with the returning Nathaniel Clyne in reserve. Klopp could then choose between the three at the weekend without worries about freshness.
Virgil van Dijk. Van Dijk has settled into life at Anfield very well since his January move, with barely a word mentioned of his colossal price tag since. Like Karius, his confidence comes from repeated first team involvement, and he won’t worry about the prospect of playing in three big matches in the space of a week.
Joel Matip. While Van Dijk is the undisputed number one, the battle to be his defensive partner is an interesting one. While many had assumed that Joel Matip would slot in, Dejan Lovren has been enjoying a return to form lately. The latter played against Newcastle, so the former will probably face Porto.
Alberto Moreno. Moreno began the season as Liverpool’s first-choice left-back, and was impressing, but an untimely injury disrupted his campaign. In his absence, Andy Robertson has made the position his own so while Moreno struggles to get a look-in in the league, a match like this would give him the chance to impress all over again.
James Milner. The competition for places in Liverpool’s midfield this season has been fierce, with James Milner re-emerging as an option after his season at left-back. The former England international has been very impressive of late and should be afforded the opportunity to maintain that run of form.
Gini Wijnaldum. Wijnaldum has been rotated more times than he would probably have liked this campaign, but remains a strong option for Klopp and Liverpool – particularly at home. The Dutch international is very likely to start, having sat out the matches against West Ham and Newcastle.
Adam Lallana. Though he is yet to recapture his form of last season as he continues to regain full fitness, Klopp is still a big fan of Lallana and namechecks him regularly. The England man hasn’t started a game in two months – a run that surely has to come to an end sooner rather than later.
Sadio Mane. At least one of Liverpool’s potent front three is likely to start, if for no other reason than to retain a familiar goal threat up front. All three will want to start, of course, but Mane could possibly use this opportunity to be the outright main man for the first time since his very impressive first season at Anfield.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Klopp has options when it comes to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lallana, as the two could interchange quite easily. The former Arsenal man’s versatility is one of his biggest strengths, and his desperation to prove himself as a genuine attacking threat for Liverpool should see him get the nod in the starting eleven in one position or another.
Danny Ings. As is the case with Lallana, Ings is slowly being reintegrated into the starting lineup having suffered with long-term injury. Klopp’s regard for the strike meant that Daniel Sturridge was sacrificed in January, and although his appearances this season have been few and far between, he has every confidence in himself that when he gets his chance, he will take it.