Having made just one change to his Liverpool side in the opening four games, continuity in selection will soon have to change for Jurgen Klopp. The Reds have only been playing one game a week up until now which enabled Klopp to name an unchanged side for the first three league games. Jordan Henderson replaced Naby Keita away at Leicester to mark the only change to the team up until now. However, with European nights on the horizon, the German is going to be forced into rotating his starting eleven if the Reds are going to build towards competing in both the Premier League and Champions League this season. Klopp was rightly praised for how effectively he chopped and changed his side from this time last year onwards but with Liverpool having been drawn in a group alongside French super-powers, PSG, Italian giants, Napoli and of course Red Star Belgrade, Jurgen will have to rotate his squad to perfection if we are to see ourselves progress through the group whilst maintaining an assault on the league title.
It is clear when we look at Klopp’s strategy last season that he looked to rotate around three players for our games in the Champions League. The boss made three changes in our opening three games against Sevilla, Spartak Moscow and Maribor. He went on to make four changes in the reverse game against Maribor, two away at Sevilla and five at home to Spartak. Although the Reds have improved their strength in depth over the summer, Jurgen will have to maintain as much consistency in selection as possible whilst making sure he rests players when needed. As a result, he should look to make no more than three to four changes in the games in and around the CL ties to ensure we can compete in both competitions effectively. This means the boss must look to plan as far in advance as possible not just looking at the games immediately before and after Champions League matches to rest players but the subsequent games after as well. Let’s take a look at how he could rotate his starting eleven for the next three games.
Line up vs Tottenham
If we take Liverpool’s starting eleven for the first three games as Klopp’s first choice team then it’s likely this is the line up we’ll see against Spurs. None of the Brazilian lads featured in their second friendly and although the turn around for a Saturday lunchtime kick-off is quite tight I’d expect both Alisson and Firmino to start without too many problems. Because of his relentless work rate and the difficulty of upcoming fixtures, Klopp may manage Bobby’s game time, perhaps only giving him 75 minutes which would be a sensible thing to do. Jordan Henderson didn’t show enough against Leicester to force his way into the side permanently and Wijnaldum’s composure against a high pressing Spurs side will be crucial. The Dutchman will need to be at his best both defensively but also in possession when instigating attacks.
Line up vs PSG
As mentioned it looks as though Klopp adopted a fairly clear strategy in last season’s Champions League group stages of rotating around three players. Because of the quality of opposition, I don’t think the boss has the luxury of making that many changes. As a result, I’d expect to see just one or two changes to the side that plays against Tottenham. I’ve decided to bring Shaqiri in for Mane as this gives Sadio a bit of a rest and means we don’t risk overplaying him too much early on in the season. The midfield remains unchanged because of its balance and Gini’s ability to operate in tight spaces when put under pressure. And the back five also stays the same as continuity is key to the Reds building a solid defence and keeping one of the most feared front three’s in European football at bay. Again we can probably expect Klopp to manage Firmino’s game time on Tuesday night but he will be an integral part of the team should Liverpool wish to cause the French champions problems.
Line up vs Southampton
Many may expect Klopp to make wholesale changes in the home game against Southampton after two huge matches leading up to it. However, the German must make sure he’s clever with his rotation and uses games down the line to rest other key members of his squad such as Andy Robertson and Mo Salah. Joe Gomez needs his game time managing carefully as he has suffered from quite a few injuries in the past which is why I’d rest him. Trent is only young and needs protecting while Naby Keita and James Milner will have played a lot of game time up until now if they both get selected for the Tottenham and PSG games. Henderson and Wijnaldum have played together in a two at home to Brighton last season and looked impressive so their partnership has shown promise. Because of Firmino’s work rate and assets, a game against a side which is likely to sit back and defend deep seems like the perfect opportunity to give him a rest, while a fresh Sadio Mane should come flying back into the starting eleven providing us with an added spark. Some supporters may be tempted to stick with a similar side to Spurs and PSG but ultimately this would heap more pressure on Klopp down the line to rotate even more and may lead to certain players being overplayed even this early in this season, increasing the risk of injuries.
Of course, Klopp and the medical team will have a better idea of how each individual player is after the international break but this gives you an insight into how I believe Klopp should be planning an assault on all competitions. How the boss manages his squad will determine how successful of a season Liverpool have in 2018/19.