Liverpool travel to Austria on Tuesday night to face RB Salzburg in the Champions League. This is the final group game and one that Liverpool must not lose if they wish to ensure qualification to the knockout phase of the tournament. However, the squad is slightly depleted. As a result, Joe Gomez will return to his favoured centre-back role.
Joe Gomez to Partner Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool Visit RB Salzburg
Joe Gomez to Return to Centre-Back
Joe Gomez will start at centre back following a start at right-back against Bournemouth at the weekend. Dejan Lovren went off injured during that game and Joel Matip‘s long-term absence ensures that it will be Gomez who partners Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence. They will likely be flanked by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson who have both been in fine form this season.
Alisson is set to start behind them in goal with Adrian on the bench. This will be the defence that kept a first clean sheet in 14 games at the weekend and they will be hoping to do so again against Salzburg. Liverpool will know how important a clean sheet is in this game; it will ensure progression in the tournament.
Squad Depth in Midfield
Fabinho is another long-term absentee from the team, though midfield is arguably the one place where Klopp is blessed with depth. Georginio Wijnaldum missed the game against Bournemouth with a minor knock, though he should return to the starting 11 against Salzburg. Captain Jordan Henderson will also expect to start as Klopp will look to play his best eleven given the game’s importance.
This leaves one spot in the midfield three available. It isn’t wise for James Milner to play three games within a week given his age so he can expect to be on the bench while Adam Lallana should not be starting a game of this importance. This means that one of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Naby Keita can expect to start with both having impressed against Bournemouth.
Front Three Reunited
Whilst Klopp has opted for a rotational approach so far during the festive period, the must-not-lose nature of this game, coupled with the cushion Liverpool have at the top of the Premier League, means that the standard front three must start.
Both Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri impressed against Everton when they started so this seems harsh, but there will be further opportunities for them this month given the hectic nature of Liverpool’s schedule. Both represent solid options from the bench if Liverpool are chasing a goal late in the game.
Predicted XI: Alisson; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah