The crucial tactical decision Jurgen Klopp must make

Liverpool (Photo by OWEN HUMPHREYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Liverpool (Photo by OWEN HUMPHREYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool host Chelsea on Thursday in a season-defining match that the Reds must win if they fancy finishing top four in the table.

Three points to the good would vault us into fourth and put a skid on their abysmal home form in February. Dropping points here would find Liverpool languishing in sixth position behind both Chelsea and West Ham United.

We’re fresh off yet another road win at Bramall Lane at the weekend, which saw Liverpool overcome yet another center back pairing (18 different combos to date) as Ozan Kabak and Nat Philips provided adequate defensive cover, in front of Adrian, who was enlisted to provide cover to Allison Becker. Alli was in mourning following the tragic death of his father in Brazil earlier in the week.

Liverpool will overcome

The Brazilian is expected to be ready to go against the Blues, according to Klopp. Also, look for the return of Fabinho and Diogo Jota. This will bring some continuity back to a midfield that at times have become sluggish, stale and unimaginative with both Fabs and Jordan Henderson being forced by injuries into the central defense. Hendo is currently injured yet again, and is out for a minimum of two months; perhaps longer.

Liverpool will have their hands full here with a resurgent Blues side in solid form, since bringing on Thomas Tuchel to manage after the sacking of Frank Lampard in late January.

Chelsea has a potent attack and will test a fragile Liverpool defense. It will be interesting to see how the gaffer lines up here, as Ozan Kabak and Nat Philips are playing well, and have proven to be solid in their defensive shifts, albeit with a few miscues and errors costing goals to the newcomers in the defensive line.

These ‘rookie’ mistakes are to be expected to a large degree and Klopp just may have the confidence to keep these lads in their starting places at CB.

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Otherwise Fabs will be enlisted to take Philips spot on the right side of the defensive shape, pairing with the young Kabak. Philips has been particularly good in his minutes, winning tackles, disrupting passing lanes,  delivering on aerial duels and keeping the offensive forward-minded opponents from getting in behind the backline.

Jurgen has an important tactical decision here; does he trust the backline defensive pairing of Kabak and Philips against a strong attacking Chelsea side, by starting Kabak and Philips and fielding Fabs in his natural no. 6 position in midfield with Thiago and Wijnaldum? Do you keep Jota in reserve, with the in-form and hungry Curtis Jones? Or, do you thrust Fabs back into the central defense to give Wijnaldum, Thiago, and Jones the midfield assignment?

These are questions that the gaffer, Pep Lijnders and the coaching staff will be assessing on the training pitch at Kirby. Jota might get the nod in the front line of attack, giving Bobby Firmino a bit of a break, and a thought to his fresh legs in the second frame.