Liverpool’s quest for history continues on Wednesday night as they host Villarreal in the Champions League semi final at Anfield.
The Reds have a maximum of nine games remaining this season, a season which could yet end with an unprecedented quadruple. The Carabao Cup is already in the trophy cabinet, with the FA Cup set to go to either Jurgen Klopp’s side or Chelsea at Wembley next month.
Villarreal’s progression has taken the whole of Europe by surprise, knocking out Juventus and Bayern Munich to reach the last four under Unai Emery. But Klopp is adamant that his history chasers will not overlook the Yellow Submarine by assuming their ticket to the Parc des Princes is already punched.
“We face a very difficult opponent,” the German said. “They are made for this competition, to be 100% honest. The way they set it up is really good. There might have been a little advantage in the last two games, maybe Juve or Bayern underestimated them, but that will never happen to us.”
But with a fixture pile-up that has enraged the Liverpool boss, Klopp is likely to at least make a few changes from the side which played last time out. The Reds were made to work for their 2-0 victory over Everton in the Merseyside derby, overcoming frustrations to earn all three points.
And with another Premier League encounter coming hot on the heels of the first leg with Villarreal, the idea of resting a player like Joel Matip could be an appealing choice for Klopp. Matip has established himself as Virgil van Dijk’s first-choice partner, but has a long history with injuries and three games in six days could be a stretch for the central defender.
Instead, Klopp can turn to summer signing Ibrahima Konate, who is beginning to earn the trust of his new manager, with regularly impressive performances. The former RB Leipzig man also has a handy knack of finding the net, scoring in both legs against Benfica in the last-eight.
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In midfield, Jordan Henderson looks destined to come back into the starting XI having only come off the bench against the Toffees. He looks most likely to replace Naby Keita, with Fabinho and Thiago undroppable based on recent performances.
And then as he has for much of the season, Klopp has serious selection dilemmas when it comes to who will start in forward areas. Against Everton, Diogo Jota lined up centrally with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah either side.
It didn’t quite work out for Jota and he could be replaced by the effervescent Luis Diaz, who added another assist to his stunning start at the club. Should the Colombian come back into the team, it will allow Mane to return to the central role which has seen him play some of his best football of the season.
Liverpool predicted XI: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Konate, Robertson; Thiago, Fabinho, Henderson; Salah, Mane, Diaz.