OPINION By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Jurgen Klopp has all but named his Liverpool team for the Europa League final after wrapping each of his big guns in cotton wool ahead of Wednesday’s showdown against Sevilla.
All of the outfield players who started the semi-final second leg triumph over Villarreal and the 1-1 draw against Chelsea six days later were rested from the matchday squad that faces West Brom in the club’s final league game of the season on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been named on the bench for the Hawthorns clash, but that is only because his No2 Danny Ward is injured, which means Adam Bogdan is handed his first start since January.
The other 10 starters against Villarreal and Chelsea have all been given a rest as Klopp takes no chances amid fears they could pick up an injury that would rule them out of Liverpool’s first European final in nine years.
Defenders Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, Kolo Toure and Alberto Moreno, midfielders Emre Can and James Milner, and attacking quartet Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge will all now be confident they are to join Mignolet in the starting line-up in Wednesday’s clash in Basle.
With Divock Origi absent from the matchday 18 to face West Brom, his chances of starting against Sevilla are seemingly dashed.
However, Jordan Henderson is on the bench at the Hawthorns after a month on the sidelines with a knee injury as he is given a late chance to prove his fitness ahead of the final.
The Anfield skipper is the one player who seems capable of gatecrashing the virtually nailed-on starting X1 for the Europa League final.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 15, 2016
Henderson has a chance of partnering Emre Can in central midfield, which could mean Klopp favourite James Milner pushed further forward and one of the attacking quartet missing out in Switzerland.
Sturridge missed out in the first leg against Villarreal as Liverpool played without a recognised striker but the England international was so impressive in the return clash that he should be confident of starting the final.
However, Lallana could be vulnerable if Henderson proves his fitness and Klopp decides on a more solid line-up against Sevilla.
Meanwhile, other senior players like Martin Skrtel, Christian Benteke, Joe Allen and Lucas are likely to have to rely on a late injury to one of the key first teamers to make the line-up in Basle.
Expected team to face Sevilla in Europa League final: Mignolet; Clyne, Toure, Lovren, Moreno; Milner, Can; Lallana, Firmino, Coutinho; Sturridge.