As Liverpool’s season reaches boiling point, Jurgen Klopp has some big, big decisions to make regarding the midfield heartbeat of The Reds’ team for the remaining games.
Not counting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who is still recovering after a year out due to a horrific knee injury – Liverpool have seven midfielders to choose from for their Premier League and Champions League run-ins.
The seven midfielders available to Herr Klopp are Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri.
After an impressive impact in the first half of the season, things seem to have gone slightly pear-shaped for Shaqiri as he’s found gametime very hard to come by in 2019.
Adam Lallana started a few fixtures between January and March but hasn’t taken to the field since Liverpool’s 2-1 win at Fulham on March 17th.
Therefore, we can say that Klopp has five midfielders – Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita, Milner – who are realistically vying for a place in the midfield trio before every match.
In recent weeks, Liverpool fans were going crazy over the triumvirate of Fabinho, Henderson (in his more advanced role) and Keita. Klopp went with that trio in the first leg of the Champions League tie against FC Porto – a 2-0 win at Anfield. He stuck with it for Liverpool’s win over Chelsea a few days later in the Premier League.
Wijnaldum and Milner then returned alongside Fabinho for the away leg against Porto, a game The Reds won 4-1 to advance to a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Barcelona.
Wijnaldum kept his starting place for last Sunday’s trip to Cardiff but this time he reverted to the base of the midfield in place of Fabinho who was rested. Henderson and Keita were the other two starting midfielders at Cardiff.
Just to make things more difficult for Klopp, Wijnaldum put in a man-of-the-match performance, scoring the opening goal which was a brilliantly taken finish from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner-kick.
Fabinho came on late in the game against Cardiff. However, he was rightly substituted after just a couple of minutes when he picked up a suspected concussion after a clash of heads with Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore.
Milner replaced Fabinho after the injury and then put himself back in the spotlight with Liverpool’s second goal, from the penalty spot, after Mohamed Salah had been fouled by Sean Morrison.
Klopp is unlikely to pick just a fixed trio of midfielders for many games, seemingly preferring a “horses for courses” approach depending on the opposition.
What midfield are we likely to see against Huddersfield? Could Adam Lallana get a rare start? What approach will Klopp take at the Camp Nou next Tuesday night?
For Friday night’s game against Huddersfield, I think we’ll see Wijnaldum, Henderson and Keita in midfield with Gini playing in the ‘6’ role again.
Against Barcelona, I expect Klopp to opt for the experience of Milner in the centre of the pitch. Fabinho and Henderson will most likely be the other two with Henderson enjoying his more attacking role ahead of Fabinho.
Unfortunately for Lallana and Shaqiri, I think the odd cameo here and there is all they can hope for between now and the end of the season.
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