Liverpool’s No.3 Fabinho was once again mesmeric in midfield against Spurs, and now Jürgen Klopp must prioritise the Brazilian’s availability for the upcoming clash with Manchester City — at the expense of the trip to Aston Villa.
After avoiding a booking as the Reds proved too much for a lacklustre Tottenham side, Fabinho now faces the risk of potentially missing out against the Premier League champions if he gets on the bad side of the referee at Villa Park.
In recent times the rivalry between Klopp’s men and Pep Guardiola’s side has emerged as one of the most exciting in English football, with the two teams arguably the most closely matched in the division. Last season the Reds suffered agony on the final day of a nail-biting title chase, losing out to the Citizens by one solitary point.
So, when you consider that the Reds took just a single point from a possible six in the head-to-head clashes between the two sides, the importance of the fixture suddenly becomes far clearer.
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On a frustrating day two weeks ago at Old Trafford, Liverpool’s anchor in midfield Fabinho collected what was his fourth booking of the current campaign, leaving him just one away from a potential seat in the stands.
The tough-tackling 26-year-old produced a fine performance last week, dominating a midfield battle up against a fragile Spurs side. It was a display which portrays his importance since arriving on Merseyside, but no booking leaves Klopp with a difficult decision to make.
Up next for the Reds in the Premier League is a tough trip to stubborn newcomers Aston Villa. It’s the first meeting of the sides since February 2016, where Liverpool came away with a 6-0 victory against a side in crisis.
Now, the Reds in their current form could produce a similar performance. However, far from it to be expected. The Villans have had a respectable start to life back in the Premier League and have also proved tough to beat at home, losing just once so far this season in the league at Villa Park against Bournemouth.
It’s a fixture that certainly should not be underestimated by no means but having said that it is a more preferential fixture to be without Fabinho. A booking in Birmingham would leave the Reds without the former Monaco and Real Madrid man in what could be the biggest game of the season in respect to where the Premier League title may end up.
Despite the impressive armoury that Guardiola has at his disposal, if Liverpool can protect their back line well enough there will surely be opportunities to get at a weakened City defence, which will be without Aymeric Laporte through injury.
Klopp has plenty of options himself at his disposal, particularly in midfield. Both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta will be itching to be involved at any chance possible, something that could make it easier for Klopp to allow Fabinho a rest in the build up to a mammoth game.
If the decision was made to take him out of the firing line, it is likely that captain Jordan Henderson would fill in a deeper midfield role, freeing up space for a more forward-thinking option.
After his super strike against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup and a strong performance against Genk in the Champions League before that, Oxlade-Chamberlain will be in pole position for a starting berth at Villa Park on Saturday.