Liverpool have an almost fully fit squad to face West Ham this weekend after Jurgen Klopp played a masterstroke in midweek by resting his entire starting XI aside from Alisson and Diogo Jota.
Norwich City put up a brave fight and almost made it a nervy end after Lukas Rupp’s fine finish from range saw the game end 2-1.
However, a brace from Takumi Minamino won the game for the home side as the Japan star continued his impressive knack for carrying Liverpool through the domestic cups this season.
Attention has now turned back to the Premier League as Liverpool have the chance to turn the pressure back up on Manchester City by reducing the points deficit at the top of the table to just three with a win over West Ham.
The league leaders and champions then host their city rivals, Manchester United, at the Etihad on Sunday and a win for Ralf Rangnick will further hand the title ascendancy to the Reds.
It doesn’t seem like that long ago that myself and many other Liverpool fans were lamenting the Reds’ lack of depth but it just shows the value of adding top signings like Luis Diaz to reinforce depth in key areas.
While West Ham fans might not be too confident about their chances against a Liverpool outfit that has won 11 games on the trot in all competitions, they should not forget they beat the Reds 3-1 at the London Stadium earlier this season.
Regardless of how Jurgen Klopp’s side played, David Moyes’ side is one fully equipped to trouble the big boys as Chelsea will attest to as well so the game at Anfield is by no means a foregone conclusion regardless of the number of players available to Klopp.
That said, Liverpool now have a squad.
I’d argue they’re a top midfield addition from Klopp having very few weaknesses in his group as they’re still very reliant on Thiago for wins in the Premier League which is a concern as he is one of the only doubts for the weekend.
This season, Liverpool have won every single game that Thiago has started but his absence this weekend creates an issue for Klopp.
Without the Spaniard, the Reds’ defence often looks exposed and midfield runners tend to have their way with the Merseysiders. Fortunately, the German and Pep Lijnders have coached the best offside trap in Europe to ensure the likes of Mason Mount and Kai Havertz are unable to score against the Reds.
Thiago’s absence also provides the opportunity for Klopp to go all out and send out a team against West Ham that would be a throwback to his heavy-metal sides from when he first joined the club.
We can all remember lineups that featured the likes of Firmino, Coutinho, Mane and Salah.
Liverpool might not have a magician like Coutinho in the no.10 role but they have options that can make a similar setup work albeit from a slightly different approach and it gives Klopp a few in-game options.
And Harvey Elliott is the key man.
He’s able to join the front three to form a devastating quartet while, off the ball, he’s able to drop back into the midfield to make up the numbers and give Liverpool the ability to deal with the danger posed by West Ham.
Whether or not Klopp will favour Elliott against such a physical, bullish team is unclear but he has the tools to help Liverpool to a win by unlocking a West Ham that has conceded just three goals in the last five games.
Elliott in midfield alongside Fabinho and Naby Keita would be preferable. The Guinean was fantastic defensively in the Carabao Cup final and helped keep N’Golo Kante’s lung-busting runs quiet and once he settled into the game, he kept Mount and Pulisic quiet.
He also had just 15 minutes’ notice after Thiago Alcantara alerted the medical staff to an issue with his hamstring and yet he was brilliant under the circumstances.
That trio with Elliott joining the front three (or four if you like) woud be outstanding and as things stand, you can’t look any further than Luis Diaz, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah up front.
Diogo Jota for Mane is the only acceptable switch but Salah and Diaz have to start.