4 May 2016

Liverpool Lineup vs. Villareal: 'Brilliant' attacker dropped? Another shock snub? Klopp confirms 'return' of midfield powerhouse

After Sunday's dire defeat to Swansea City, Liverpool's season is on the verge of collapsing into abject mediocrity, and the only thing that can save the the club from yet another disappointing year is winning the Europa League. Can the Reds do it? They'll have to get past Villareal first, and as the first leg showed, that's no easy task.

Klopp's pre-match updates:

* On Can: Emre is ready to return to the squad for sure, but the rest we have to see.

* On Henderson: "Hendo is in a good way – a good way for England, I am not too sure how good a way it is for Liverpool in this case because he has not been on the pitch yet".

* On Sturridge: "I have made no decisions. We have to think how we will start in the game, how can we change in the game, and how to react in different situations. In all of these thoughts, Daniel Sturridge is absolutely involved".

* On Villareal: "We know about their strengths but we saw our strength too, even in the first game. Our skill, our quality, our passion, our readiness together with the atmosphere of Anfield - that's what I'm looking for".

On the subject of Sturridge, I defer to John Aldridge's view of the situation:

"Daniel Sturridge must start, it’s as simple as that. Our best striker has to be on the pitch. Sturridge starts. End of".

Spot on. Sturridge has to start, end of story. There's no credible reason to leave Liverpool's most prolific attacking player on the bench for the biggest game of the season, and if Klopp leaves him out, it'll be tantamount to self-sabotage. The question is, why wouldn't you want a prodigious goalscorer in the team? Sturridge deserves his place on merit, and if Klopp snubs him again, he'll probably quit the club this summer (and rightly so).

Mark my words, though, if Sturridge is snubbed, Klopp apologists (Kloppologists?) will be out in force peddling tenuous excuses to justify the decision, whilst hoping and praying the Reds get through so they can gloat about the alleged 'genius' of the decision. Even if Liverpool somehow contrive to win the game without Sturridge, it still doesn't make it the right decision to leave him out.

It's the principle that matters, and in this case, a club's most prolific goalscorer should always - if fit - start the biggest games of the season. My preferred lineup:

------------ Mignolet
Clyne - Lovren --- Toure --- Moreno
--------- Lucas - Allen
Milner ----- Firmino ----- Coutinho
----------- Sturridge

* Starting a half-fit Can over fully-fit players like Lucas and Allen is, in my view, a mistake. It's also an insult to those two as it suggests that Klopp doesn't trust them to do their jobs.

* As his impressive goals/assists tally shows, Milner is most effective in a more advanced role, so there's no point wasting him in central midfield. In my view, Milner is a better option than Lallana^ in the outside right position.

^ Hailed by Jurgen Klopp as 'brilliant'.

Author: Jaimie K


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