By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
Liverpool make their much-heralded return to Champions League action this evening as last year’s finalists take-on French champions Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield.
It’s a competition that the Reds have a special relationship with, but face a tough test from the visitors in the form of their own potent front three of wonderkid Kylian Mbappé, goal-machine Edinson Cavani and £200m-man Neymar Jr.
We know that boss Jurgen Klopp will stick to his guns in the tactical sense, but question marks remain over who will fill some of the spaces in the starting eleven for LFC’s first European outing of 2018/19… so we asked you!
Kopites on Twitter have been voting for who they think should start in two hotly-debated, key areas of the pitch – and here are the results.
It’s well-documented that Klopp hasn’t yet been satisfactorily convinced of the Brazilian’s fitness and/or familiarity with the system in place at Anfield, but tonight could finally afford us a first glimpse of the £40m-man in competitive action.
Having arrived from AS Monaco in the summer, his home for the last five seasons, he’s clearly familiar with Ligue 1 football and the way that PSG play, and would be able to offer some sturdiness and solidity in the midfield against opponents that are largely unfamiliar for the Reds.
Still, this all depends on whether or not the gaffer deems him ready to take to the Anfield turf – we may have to wait even longer still if the German decides that the answer is no.
In a Twitter poll, The Kopite asked if YOU and other Reds fans wanted to see Fabinho make his debut tonight, or stick with a ‘tried and tested’ midfield of three players who have already impressed so far this season – here are the results:
As you can see, the advocates for the Brazilian’s inclusion in the starting eleven edged the vote, but it was a close-run debate.
Normally fans would be screaming for their new £40m signing to start games, and the fact that almost half would prefer to stick with Milner, Wijnaldum and Keita shows just how good the trio have been so far this term.
But also, the fact that slightly more people want to see Fabinho start implies that there are some that are growing impatient to see the former-Monaco man in action and, with his familiarity with Liverpool’s upcoming opponents, see tonight as an ideal opportunity to give him his first competitive minutes.
Verdict; Fabinho in, Milner/Wijnaldum/Keita out.
Do the Studge or Shaq in the attack?
Due to a sudden onset of injuries at the top of the pitch, there is now a debate to be had as to who starts as the central attacker tonight – thanks for that, Jan Vertonghen.
Yes, thanks to knocks to Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke while on U23 duty, and usual starter Roberto Firmino’s 50/50 chances of an appearance thanks to the Belgian defender fish-hooking him in the eye at Wembley, the competition to replace the Brazilian, should he not be available, has been whittled-down to a two-horse race.
Daniel Sturridge is the most natural replacement up-front, and has impressed in his limited minutes so far this term, but some are advocating for the inclusion of new signing Xherdan Shaqiri as a focal point – an unorthodox position for the Swiss, but an idea that is popular.
Once again, The Kopite asked Twitter Reds for their input on which of the two should start if Firmino is unable to – here are the results:
As you can see, I personally would give the Englishman a chance in this one, but I was overwhelmingly out-voted by most others who would prefer to see the former-Stoke City man gifted his first start in the red of Liverpool.
We all know that Sturridge has an eye for goal, but his distasteful fitness and injury history seems to have put many off-him here. Plus, there have been no few amount of times that the former-Chelsea striker has looked out-of-place in this system.
Shaqiri is a bit of a wildcard in this position, but he seems to have the right attributes to play the ‘false nine’ role to good effect, and this is maybe what attracts most to wanting to see him get the nod. Also, similarly to Fabinho, everyone wants to see their side’s new signings in action, so this too may have played a part in the poll results.
All this, of course, does depend on Roberto Firmino’s availability – if he is given the green light, then we would all surely prefer our No. 9 to take to the pitch against PSG.
Verdict: Shaqiri in, Sturridge out.