PREVIEW By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Jurgen Klopp is faced with a series of selection dilemmas in midfield and attack for Liverpool’s Europa League showdown against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday.
The tie is superbly poised at 1-1 after the Merseysiders secured a precious away goal in the first leg in Germany last Thursday.
Assessing his growing options in the wake of Sunday’s emphatic 4-1 win over Stoke, Klopp hailed Joe Allen as “brilliant”, paid tribute to Daniel Sturridge’s work rate and also claimed Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, substitutes at the weekend, were both in “brilliant shape”.
The German manager made seven changes for the Stoke match as he rested key players and there will be another turnover in personnel for Liverpool’s biggest match of the season to date.
Barring any injuries, the goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno, and midfielder Emre Can, are virtually certain starters.
Further upfield, there is growing competition for places, with perhaps only Coutinho, the team’s outstanding player, and Klopp favourite James Milner confident of starting the second leg.
That leaves the second central midfield berth and two attacking positions, one on the flanks and one to lead the attack, up for grabs.
Given the scoreline in the tie and the calibre of the opposition, it is unlikely Klopp will go all-out attack against such a high calibre team, which means a straight shoot-out up front between Sturridge, scorer of the second against Stoke, and in-form Divock Origi, who has struck three times in two matches.
Klopp is then likely to choose between Lallana and fit-again Robert Firmino, with the Englishman the narrow favourite to be selected.
The Brazilian started his first game in nearly a month at the weekend but was not at his sharpest and could be overlooked despite his excellent form since the turn of the year.
“When I came here we always spoke about players who are not available,” Klopp said after the win over Stoke, as quoted by the Liverpool Echo. “Now we have more players to think about changing the line-up, the system, changing everything.
“We played without Coutinho, who is in brilliant shape, we played without Lallana, who is in brilliant shape.”
In a clear hint that manager Klopp is planning to start Allen against Dortmund, he was withdrawn after 78 minutes of Sunday’s clash. “We only took him off because we need him,” explained the manager.
Fit-again duo Lucas Leiva and Kevin Stewart will also come into contention but Allen’s energy, tactical nous and tidy distribution is likely to mean him getting the nod.
Liverpool (possible): Mignolet; Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Can, Allen, Milner; Lallana, Coutinho, Origi.
In other Liverpool news, a Bundesliga expert has said Dortmund fear one man ahead of the second leg.