Liverpool’s Klopp faces tricky derby game selection quandary
Liverpool’s convincing victory over Manchester City in the Champions League was perhaps beyond Jurgen Klopp’s wildest dreams, but has left him with an interesting dilemma going into the Merseyside derby at Everton on April 7.
The match comes three days before the second leg of their quarter-final against City, into which they will go with a 3-0 lead and as favorites to reach the last four for the first time since 2008.
Yet with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich widely expected to make up the other semi-finalists after this week’s first legs, Klopp will be aware his team would be the outsiders to win the trophy.
It means that, if his team is to be in the Champions League next season, their best hope would be to finish in the Premier League’s top four.
And despite their healthy league position, that means there is little scope for taking their foot off the pedal when they go to Goodison Park.
Apart from anything else, their supporters would not tolerate it.
Klopp, though, is not best pleased at the timing of the match and feels their good run in Europe could come at a price.
“Being in international competition should not cause you problems,” said the 50-year-old German.
“It should be something good, and not cause you problems.
“We have now a problem to find players for Saturday, and everyone’s telling us it’s the most important game of the year, and that’s quite difficult.
“So I’m not really over the moon at the moment, I’m really angry about a few people who make decisions in this league.”
Liverpool are third in the Premier League going into the 231st Merseyside derby, two points behind Manchester United in second, and two points ahead of Tottenham in fourth, having played a game more than both.
Crucially, they are 10 points clear of fifth-placed Chelsea, who also have a game in hand.
Thanks to a change in the Champions League qualification rules, even fourth place would ensure automatic passage to the group stage next season.
However, Chelsea’s game in hand, plus the fact Liverpool still have to visit Stamford Bridge in the league, leaves no room for complacency.
Klopp, then, has to spread his risk against Everton, not least in attack, where 38-goal top scorer Mohamed Salah may well be left out.
Salah, having scored the opening goal against City at Anfield on April 4, limped off early in the second half with a groin strain, and surely will not feature if his fitness is in any doubt.
That means Klopp faces the prospect of breaking up his fearsome front three of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who between them have scored 77 of Liverpool’s 116 goals in all competitions this season.
Dominic Solanke is the most likely candidate to come in as a replacement, having impressed with a busy 19-minute appearance as a substitute against City.
Danny Ings, the other available senior striker, has not started a Premier League match since Klopp took charge, having battled back from two cruciate knee ligament injuries, but is available to make an impact from the bench -- and has a bit of history when it comes to the Merseyside derby. His last league start was against Everton at Goodison Park in October 2015, when he scored in a 1-1 draw that turned out to be Brendan Rodgers’ final match in charge of Liverpool.