Liverpool return to Premier League action today with a 17:30 kick-off away at Villa Park against Aston Villa, with victory imperative in the fight to return to the forefront of the division.
After winning the FA Cup and Carabao Cup last season, and agonisingly falling at the last hurdle in the pursuit of the Champions League – losing to Real Madrid in the final – and losing to Manchester City in the Premier League title fight in an enthralling season finale, standards have tumbled way below expectations this term.
Seventh-placed in the division, with just six victories from 14 matches, Liverpool are in dire need of an impressive run of form to climb back into Champions League contention and prepare for the continental knockout phase and the retention of the FA Cup.
In the first league encounter since the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will be mulling over the side best suited to steer the club toward victory against a side displaying signs of a resurgence since the arrival of Unai Emery at the helm, replacing the dismissed Steven Gerrard in October.
Liverpool did return to competitive action against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup fourth round last week, losing 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium in a thrilling encounter, and while the club’s defence in the competition is over, Klopp will be thankful for the minutes in the legs of his side.
Considering this, here is the starting XI that Football FanCast predicts Liverpool’s German boss will field for the forthcoming enticing clash (4-3-3):
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson; Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Caoimhin Kelleher deputised between the sticks for the Reds against City, putting in a worthy display and bolstering his pedigree as the side’s dependable No. 2 between the sticks, but Alisson is expected to make his return for the Premier League clash.
Joel Matip and the “complete”, as once hailed by Carlos Puyol, Virgil Van Dijk should continue their partnership as the central defenders, with the latter absent from the City clash following his international exploits with the Netherlands. The £75m titan will replace Joe Gomez, who has been “awful” – as branded by reporter Scott Saunders – at various times this season.
Liverpool’s midfield should be made up with Fabinho at the anchor, Thiago retaining his deep-lying position as the maestro and Jordan Henderson replacing Harvey Elliott as the pivot, instilling authority and composure.
Mohamed Salah will continue to dominate the offensive right flank at the club, hoping to build on his goal against City and his impressive tally of 15 in 22 outings this term, while Darwin Nunez will again occupy the role of central talisman – Diogo Jota and Bobby Firmino are both currently injured.
The left side of the attack presents more of a conundrum; Luis Diaz will remain sidelined until March after aggravating an injury suffered against Arsenal, while Fabio Carvalho, who scored Liverpool’s opener last week, was withdrawn at half-time.
Therefore, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may earn a rare shot at the starting line-up after impressing during his cameo appearance in the Carabao Cup.