Liverpool vs. Luton Town: Premier League Matchday 26 Preview

Can LFC beat Luton to keep up their Premier League title push?
Liverpool FC v Burnley FC - Premier League
Liverpool FC v Burnley FC - Premier League / Visionhaus/GettyImages

It seems that nothing good can happen for our Reds without a significant downside. Mo Salah came back as a sub and chipped in a goal and an assist, but the injury list still grew in a big way.

Alisson and Dominik Szoboszlai were both ruled out before the game, while Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota both exited in the first half with injuries. Darwin Nunez scored a nice goal before a “precautionary” substitution at halftime. 

The Reds are limping to the finish, which is closer than it may appear- only 13 Premier League matches remain in the Jürgen Klopp era.

The good news, beyond of course the resounding Liverpool win, was a draw for Manchester City, giving the Reds possession of first place regardless of matches in hand.

With a relatively tame remaining schedule- save for a tremendous March visit from City themselves- a second Premier League title could be a reality, but all available points are absolutely huge ones.

Let’s see how Liverpool can secure the three available against Luton Town this Wednesday, as Klopp balances this theoretically simple task with a Carabao Cup final against Chelsea- who just drew with City at the Etihad- on Sunday. 

Top of the Pitch

As has been the case for several weeks now, the biggest question mark is Salah, although he’s not the only one. It’s very likely that we’ll see the Egyptian King at some point, especially with some forwards completely unavailable.

Still, it’s not likely that he starts twice in a five-day window just yet, so we’ll have to see whether Klopp chooses to reserve him for Sunday.

While Jota won’t be playing, Darwin’s status is a bit up in the air- we’ll have to see if he’s good to go. There’s a good chance that either he or Salah will start, as there are few other options to fill out a lineup with even players like reserve Ben Doak hurt.

Expect Cody Gakpo to get a relatively rare start at striker after a goal and assist over the weekend, Luis Díaz to start on one of the wings, and Salah or Darwin to start on the opposite wing. 

Luton are 18th in the league with an even 2.0 goals allowed per match, and similarly enough, they’re 19th in xG conceded, so one could argue that they’ve even been a bit lucky, a grim notion for a relegation-threatened squad with 47 goals allowed already.

Losing centre-back Tom Lockyer to heart issues in December was a tough blow, but he wouldn’t have salvaged the defense all alone, especially given mediocre play from goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.

After a game in which Liverpool missed just two of an outstanding six big chances created, expect more positivity from their front line.

The Midfield

The midfield has been nowhere near immune from the injury bug, so we have to play a bit of a guessing game as Klopp pieces together not just this Wednesday’s XI, but a strategy to beat Chelsea on Sunday.

Wataru Endō and Alexis Mac Allister are likely to start, as they are both fully fit, but who will join them after Curtis Jones went down? One data point is that Ryan Gravenberch is the one who came on after the injury to Jones against Brentford, and the Dutch youngster put on a performance that is likely to give him a good chance of finding himself in the XI this time out. 

We’re left assuming that the only remaining healthy midfielder is Harvey Elliott, other than academy player James McConnell, a teenager who has gotten sparing Prem minutes this year. 

Wataru Endō was a much-welcomed presence against Burnley, as he played a full 90 minutes in his return from Asian Cup action.

However, with Szoboszlai out a bit longer, with a targeted return somewhere around the Carabao Cup final, we’ll likely see a similar midfield to the one Klopp trotted out against Burnley.

Luton’s midfield has them near the bottom of the league with a possession rate of 41.3%, but they actually possessed at a rate of 58% against Manchester United.

Their 3-4-2-1 shape definitely puts an emphasis on the middle of the pitch, so led by standout central midfielder Ross Barkley, they could cause some issues against a Liverpool midfield that has been worn down to a thread. 

The Back End

Of course, the Liverpool defense could never be fully intact. Right now, it’s about as far from full strength as it’s been since the legendary Williams-Phillips central defense pairing of 2021.

Fortunately, Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté are both currently good to go in the middle, which is a good thing against Luton’s striker-centric approach, but arguably the team’s two best players this year (non-Salah category) are missing. 

Alisson appears to be out through mid March with a hamstring injury, while Alexander-Arnold is week-to-week after reaggravating a knee issue.

The priority absolutely must be protecting the duo enough to get them ready to face City on March 10th, so don’t expect to see either one anytime soon, especially Alisson. The good news is the health of a slightly different fullback duo, Andy Robertson and Conor Bradley, who both looked fantastic against Brentford. 

Luton’s scoring almost entirely goes through dual strikers Elijah Adebayo and Carlton Morris; they’ve combined for 16 of the club’s 31 league goals thus far.

That total is fifth from the bottom, although they have a game in hand and are thus 13th in goal scoring per match.

They’re 17th in xG, so there’s been some combination of solid finishing and good luck, so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out against Liverpool’s highly-rated defense, albeit without its superstar keeper.