The first game of this weekend sees Liverpool travel to Vicarage Road to take on Watford. Claudio Ranieri takes charge of The Hornets for the very first time after his appointment over the international break. Jurgen Klopp will be without Alisson, Fabinho, Jones, Thiago and Elliott for the trip, whilst Jota and Alexander-Arnold are in contention to start. We look at how Jurgen Klopp could line up.
In goal, Caoimhin Kelleher will come in for his first start in the PL this calendar year. The Northern Irishman’s last appearance in the competition came in December last year as he kept a clean sheet in a 4-0 home drubbing of Wolverhampton Wanderers. The 22 year old kept a clean sheet (having saved a penalty) against Norwich in the Carabao Cup in his only game for the club this season. It helps that he’s coming off a full international debut and clean sheet.
The back four should see the first choice quartet of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson reunited. Trent missed the last two games with a muscle injury and his return is a real boost. He’s the best creator in the squad but what goes under the radar sometimes is his defensive work, and he should add more of a balance to the right hand side than we saw against City.
In midfield, four options are unavailable for different reasons. It leaves the manager with Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at his disposal. The gaffer can choose to go 4-2-3-1 (4-2-4) and play all four forwards, with a double pivot in midfield. That is if he wants to veer briefly away from the usual 4-3-3 considering the number of players absent.
It’s also worth noting Naby Keita played two and half games over six days for his country. As such, it is highly unlikely he’ll start both tomorrow and on Tuesday. With Fabinho (and possibly Jones) being available for the Atletico Madrid clash, I reckon Naby starts tomorrow and then if required, takes a place on the bench in midweek. Henderson is a shoo-in for the holding role, leaving one spot left.
Milner or Ox? Both haven’t had any international assignments over the past two weeks so must be in good shape going into tomorrow. Ox offers that drive from midfield and shooting ability from range so I reckon he will start against what is expected to be a defensive, counter attacking setup by Ranieri. There were reports some days ago about Ox possibly leaving the club in search of more game time.
He’s 28 now and has missed out on a couple of seasons with serious injuries. He simply has to take his chances when they come along. We saw Harvey Elliott keep his place when he performed. After his injury, Jones also made the spot his own after impressing when he got his chance. Jurgen Klopp has proven meritocracy is in place, so the gauntlet has to be laid down for Ox. Tomorrow is his chance to shine.
Upfront, I expect the original front three to take to the field from the start, especially with Jota just returning to team training yesterday or so. Roberto Firmino was left out of Brazil’s squad and should be chomping at the bit for just his second start of the season, having picked up a hamstring injury in his only start so far against Chelsea, in August. He’ll be flanked by Sadio Mané and the red hot Mohamed Salah.
Kelleher, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita, Salah, Firmino, Mané.
Subs: Adrian, Williams, Gomez, Konate, Tsimikas, Milner, Minamino, Jota, Origi.