By Ritchie Slack (@Slack_9)
It’s been a rather tempestuous month for Liverpool, accentuated by an increasing injury list. During this international break alone, three players – Joe Gomez, Jordan Henderson and Mo Salah (COVID-19) – have been hit by injury or a positive Covid test.
Gomez, to the torment of Liverpool fans, is out for the foreseeable future after suffering a knee injury on England duty. The skipper Jordan Henderson, meanwhile, is out with a groin injury (also picked up on England duty) and Salah, after testing positive for COVID-19, is having to isolate (side note: Why in Robbie Fowler’s name are we still having to endure international football during a global pandemic?!).
Incidentally, Rhys Williams was also sent home from the U21 England duty after picking up flagging hip pain.
There is at least some positive news: On Thursday, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Thiago (to a certain extent) were seen strutting their stuff at Liverpool’s recently-opened plush new training complex in Kirby…
On the subject of player availability, Klopp – in his pre-match press conference – noted, “Fabinho and Thiago are in a good way, they are closer, but we will see if it’s close enough for the weekend’“. Make of that what you will.
Having written most of this season’s match previews thus far, its been a bit of a struggle predicting the line-up with which the enigmatic Klopp will go for – but this week truly is a lottery.
The good news is that Liverpool now have such a plethora of talent to choose from – which hasn’t always been the case – that while Liverpool’s so-called ‘strongest XI’ won’t take the field against Leicester, it will still at least be a ‘strong one’.
With Trent Alexander-Arnold out for around four weeks, Klopp could opt for the ever-reliant James Milner or the youngster Neco Williams (although he also picked up a knock against Ireland in Wales’ Nation League fixture in the week) to fill in the void at right-back. At centre-back, Joel Matip (wrap him up in cotton wool) will surely play. But questions remain over the fitness of Fabinho; if unfit, expect to see one of either Rhys Williams (if fit) or Nat Phillips partner the Cameroon international. In addition, Andy Robertson was brought back from Scotland duty early over fears of an injury issue. But here’s hoping that the rest has done him a whole world of good.
In midfield… your guess is as good as any! Anyone of Curtis Jones, Xherdan Shaqiri, Gini Wijnaldum, Naby Keita (if fit), Thiago (if fit) could feature.
The only certainty, excluding Alisson Becker, is in attack: Diogo Jota’s scintillating form will most likely see him partner Sadio Mane on the flanks and we should see Brazilian Roberto Firmino take up the ‘false 9’ spot once again. Firmino’s form has been a subject of discussion since the resumption of the PL season, but a goal for his national team in the week will have helped the silky star’s confidence, and a big performance is well overdue! Klopp said in his press conference that ‘nobody here feels self-pity… we have players available and as long as we have 11 players we will fight for three points’ –and with an attacking force as potent as this one, fight they shall!
In the opposing corner…
Leicester have injury troubles of their own. The influential Soyuncu is still sidelined, while Ricardo Pereira and Wilfred Ndidi are both doubts. But Timothy Castagne could return.
Last season’s golden boot winner Jamie Vardy is in fine form again this season, and having put former PL champions Manchester City to the sword earlier in the season, you would imagine the pacey hitman is confident of another barnstorming performance against the current PL champions.
Vardy has 8 goals in 7 games this season so far – stop him, and stop Leicester City.
Jurgen Klopp spoke of togetherness and unity this week, saying ‘we (LFC) are a proper unit. The more problems we have, the closer we stick together.’
So, Leicester City will no doubt need to be at their best to topple this unit. Yes, Liverpool have injury problems, but this is Anfield, and whilst the Foxes are an immensely capable football team, Klopp’s pressing wolf-pack have a history of raising their standards in games such as these. Liverpool tackle their problems head-on, because that’s what Klopp’s Liverpool – champions Liverpool – always do.
Up the Reds. YNWA.