By Dave Davis – @DaveD0106
“That’s what we have to do. We have to play the football we stand for. We have to play the football we stand for. We have to play LFC Football”.
Jurgen Klopp couldn’t have been clearer on what he’s expecting from his side come June 1.
The 26-man group that has headed to Marbella will be well-drilled, although those nervous amongst the red support will remember results after the completion of ‘warm weather training’. Despite the vast numbers at his disposal, it may well be that the starting XI set to take the field in Madrid isn’t too difficult to select.
Whilst there’s no need to bring the goalkeeper situation into the discussion, the defensive line might not be too difficult to predict either. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Virgil van Dijk will start, provided they have no issues.
Robertson looked sluggish against Wolves, having struggled with the knock he sustained against Barcelona. Three weeks should be plenty of time to recover though.
Virgil’s partner maybe debated, but its hard to look past Joel Matip. The Cameroonian centre-half has been one of Liverpool’s best players in the last few months and may well have secured a future at the club which could have been in danger.
Despite all his talent, injuries have come at the worst times for Joe Gomez and it’s difficult to see Klopp gambling here. Dejan Lovren has looked erratic on occasions since his return and similarly his injury record won’t help.
The centre of the park again comes down to fitness, although this maybe one where the manager still has to make a decision. The return to action of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been one of the highlights in a brilliant season, but it’s hard to see a man with less than an hour on the pitch this season start a Champions League final.
Naby Keita is with the squad in Marbella and the comments of the Guinea national team manager, Paul Put, did raise the hopes of many Reds. However, there’s a time to take risks and it’s hard to see this being one.
Everyone knows how highly Klopp rates James Milner and, along with Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum, he’s made up the key three in the middle in Europe this season. That being said, having shackled the greatest player on earth in the semi-final and bearing in mind his recent form, Fabinho has a strong a claim as any for a starting berth.
Gini’s two goals against Barcelona and Hendo’s recent form since his positional change will see most Kopites expecting them to get the nod too. Someone will rightly be devastated.
The biggest question around the attacking three was the fitness of Roberto Firmino. Fortunately, Instagram and LFC’s official photographer appear to have dispelled those concerns. Divock Origi could naturally feel slightly disappointed not to be rewarded for his semi-final heroics, but in his heart of hearts will know that Klopp will still see him as potentially a key option on a huge night.
With the ability to now name 12 substitutes and the likes of Woodurn and Kelleher along solely for the experience, the bench has the potential to be the strongest it’s ever been in recent years.
The starting XI, barring any issues is 99% set though. Once Klopp makes the tough midfield decision, the reds are ready for war.