Jurgen Klopp and Pepijn Lijnders have the unenviable task of selecting Liverpool’s team to face Benfica in the Champions League which is wedged between two huge games against Manchester City.
Heading into the second leg at Anfield, the Reds are 3-1 up and can book their place in the semifinals with a strong showing.
Villarreal are waiting to see who they will face in the last four after they shocked Europe by sending Bayern Munich crashing out of the competition, much to the delight of former Reds star Alberto Moreno.
Alisson will undoubtedly start in goal and while Liverpool conceded two very soft goals at the Etihad, the Brazilian was fantastic. Jurgen Klopp admitted after the game that the no.1 saved Liverpool from losing.
Klopp on Alisson:
"I said to him 'thank you for saving our ass again' he said 'it's my job'!" [Sky]
— DaveOCKOP (@DaveOCKOP) January 23, 2022
In front of him, Trent Alexander-Arnold should start at right-back but I do wonder with all the football on the horizon if Jurgen Klopp won’t be tempted to rest Andy Robertson and start Kostas Tsimikas.
I doubt it given the magnitude of the game but with an FA Cup semifinal at the weekend it might occur to him as a possibility.
At centre-back, Virgil van Dijk will certainly start while I expect Ibrahima Konate to return to the starting lineup despite the mistake he made which gifted Darwin Nunez a goal in the first leg.
It might be a surprise start for him given that Matip isn’t injured but with the fixture congestion and the Cameroonian’s injury history, Klopp tends to rotate him when he can and Liverpool are in a position to rest him.
In midfield, with Thiago absent from open training on Tuesday, it’s likely Klopp will opt for a trio of Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to dominate the engine room against Benfica.
The Spaniard, who reportedly earns £225,000/week, was not in training on Tuesday but neither was Roberto Firmino on Friday and then he was in the squad for the trip to Manchester City.
That said, Liverpool manage Thiago’s game time much more systematically than any other player due to the number of injuries he’s had and his importance to the balance of the Reds’ midfield.
Upfront, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are more than likely to start but after missing out against Manchester City, Luis Diaz will be hoping to return to the side against Benfica.
He was the catalyst for everything good about the Reds’ attack in the first leg, scoring and assisting against his former domestic rivals and his inclusion may be vital to Liverpool guaranteeing progression to the 2022 Champions League semifinals.
Predicted Starting XI: Alisson; Robertson, van Dijk, Konate, Trent, Fabinho, Henderson, Keita; Diaz, Mane, Salah.