Liverpool’s return to action didn’t go quite to plan on Thursday. The Reds’ defence of their Carabao Cup crown came to an end in the last 16 as they fell to a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City, but attention will quickly turn to the Premier League.
Jurgen Klopp and his men resume their league campaign on Boxing Day, travelling to Aston Villa.
With varying levels of fitness and different preparation times as a result of the World Cup, players’ involvement in the immediate future isn’t a certain topic. Two players who fans will be desperate to see play as Liverpool look to get back to winning ways, however, are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk.
There is good news, and slightly bad news, for Liverpool fans.
In his pre-match conference, Klopp confirmed that Van Dijk has resumed full training and will be fully fit for the Villa clash. However, Alexander-Arnold seems to have picked up what the rest of the United Kingdom has contracted and has been ill in recent days.
Klopp did suggest that the Englishman had been training in parts, though, and hopes the right-back will be better come Boxing Day.
The Liverpool lineup is expected to experience a few changes from the one that lost to City in the week, with Van Dijk a certainty to come in and Alexander-Arnold, dependent on his illness, more of a hope.
Liverpool predicted starting 11 (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Elliott, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Carvalho
Should the defender miss out on the trip to Villa, he really won’t have had much game time since mid November.
England might have reached the last eight before a quarter-final defeat to France, but Alexander-Arnold managed only just above half an hour in his nation’s whole campaign – all coming in the final group game, a 3-0 victory over Wales.
He – with his manager – will want to get straight back into the action as soon as possible to regain some individual momentum, although this virus might have made other plans.
‘Big Virg’ was a lot more prominent in Qatar, although similarly bowed out at the quarter-final stage.
The centre-back skippered the Dutch throughout the tournament, not missing a second of their campaign. He was a steady performer as the Netherlands earned two clean sheets in Group A, before a 3-1 win over the United States was followed by a penalty-shootout defeat to Argentina in the last eight.
His most memorable moment of the 2022 World Cup, however, will almost certainly be his ever-so satisfying bosh to send Leandro Paredes to the floor after the Argentine had viciously struck a ball at the Dutch bench.
While Alexander-Arnold’s inclusion on Monday might be in doubt, van Dijk seems a certainty to feature after resuming first-team training without a bother.
He’ll need to be on high alert against a Villa side that has found its mojo since the arrival of Unai Emery. Two successive Premier League wins under the Spaniard have seen them rise to 12th in the table and, with five goals in that time, there doesn’t seem to be too much need for tinkering – apart from between the sticks, while Emi Martinez is doing whatever on earth he’s doing to celebrate Argentina’s triumph.
Aston Villa predicted starting 11 (4-2-2-2): Olsen; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; Luiz, Kamara; McGinn, Buendia; Ings, Watkins