Jürgen Klopp faces Liverpool’s £ 4.6million dilemma but could make 13 Champions League debuts


Is Jürgen Klopp hanging on or twisting in the Champions League game against Porto?

Fans will watch with intrigue what kind of team the German chooses for the match against the Portuguese team. Liverpool’s qualification for the round of 16 is already two games to go. They are four out of four this season – a 100% perfect record – and hold the top of the group, some seven points ahead of second-placed Atlètico Madrid.

Given their relative comfort position, what does Klopp do? Rest the majority of the players of his first team and give his marginal players a chance for the matches of Porto and Milan, or field a mixture of experience and youth?

It is unclear which course Klopp will take. Although he is already in the next round, there is still money on the table for the club. Each victory in the competition generates a bonus of £ 2.3million. If Klopp select an EFL Cup-style roster for the last two games and Liverpool lose both, that adds up to £ 4.6million of which the club will be deprived.

Also, Porto and Milan need every possible point at this point. With the three other teams in the group still able to qualify, they line up their best teams. Klopp cannot therefore select a watered-down team and still hope to win.

The right approach would be to go for a mix of first-team regulars and fringe players, even if there are as many as 13 (!) players available for the selection he was able to select for the first time in Europe. The list is as follows: Tyler Morton, Conor Bradley, Owen Beck, Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Harvey Blair, James Norris, James Balagizi, Harvey Davies, Jarrell Quansah, Luke Chambers, Dominic Corness, Max Woltman and Oakley Cannonier).

Four of them (Morton, Bradley, Beck and Dixon-Bonner) could be considered ‘likely’ to play a role, while all the others are possibilities depending on their involvement in the UEFA Youth League.

Alisson will likely be in goal, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Klopp give substitute keeper Caoimhin Kelleher a loophole.

In defense, we could see a full-back consisting of Neco Williams, Nat Phillips, Ibrahima Konatè and Kostas Tsimikas. Or if it is perhaps too experimental, replace Konatè with Virgil van Dijk or Joël Matip.

It would be nice to see Klopp give Phillips a start, given the role he played in getting Liverpool back to the competition last season. There wouldn’t be a better time to play it than during the Porto and Milan matches. Williams could also be awarded a start to get more playing time under his belt. Joe Gomez would also have been a likely starter, but he remains injured.

The midfielder is another story. There really isn’t a lot of room to experiment here, considering the small number of fit players. Thiago Alcântara will most likely make a new start in order to gain momentum. After his positive performance against Arsenal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be keen to secure another back-to-back start under his belt. If Trent Alexander-Arnold wanted to try his hand at playing in midfield in order to improve his position with the England squad, then this would be the match to try him. But it would be surprising to see Klopp allow Alexander-Arnold to play there.

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Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fabinho do it all over again, essentially the same line that started against Arsenal last weekend.

In attack, Mohamed Salah will want to start, and he could presumably play around 60 minutes before being substituted. The same scenario could happen with Sadio Mané, but Klopp has to keep in mind what happened last season with Diogo Jota against FC Midtjylland. Jota was used in the match, which made no sense, and sustained an injury that ruled him out for three months. Klopp can hardly afford a repeat of this situation this season.

Takumi Minamino could make a rare start in one of the attacking positions. Divock Origi will almost certainly be featured if he’s available, but there are question marks about that, so it’s likely Klopp will go for more first-team regulars than he might have wanted in use.

Possible Liverpool XI for Porto: Alisson; N. Williams, Phillips, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Fabinho, Thiago, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Salah, Minamino, Mane


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