Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp may factor the Reds’ next two fixtures into his thinking when he comes to form his line-up against Benfica on Wednesday night. The Portuguese outfit come to Anfield 3-1 down from their Champions League quarter-final first leg. And Klopp could chop and change with six players knowing they face Manchester City and Manchester United in their next two matches.
And after a pulsating Premier League draw at the weekend, Klopp knows very well Liverpool face City again on Saturday in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. The Tuesday after that, they host arch-rivals United in a huge league game.
Benfica at home will be Liverpool’s fourth match within 12 days and so changes to the line-up are guaranteed. With City and United two of a potential 11 games in the next 44 days after the second leg, Klopp will have one eye on the fixture list when naming his teams in the next few weeks.
Andy Robertson, Thiago Alcantara and Mohamed Salah are three of six players who could be benched here. The trio all started against Watford, Benfica and City with Robertson playing the full 270 minutes, Thiago 241 and Salah 220.
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Salah has looked jaded since his exertions at the Africa Cup of Nations for Egypt. And at home to Benfica, with a 3-1 lead, should represent a good opportunity for him to be rested. One of Sadio Mane or Diogo Jota will also be changed, with Luis Diaz and Roberto Firmino having started just one of the last three games each.
That already is two changes and there could be two more in midfield. Thiago will be one of Liverpool’s most important players in the run-in and they won’t want to overload him after three straight starts. He should drop to the bench vs Benfica and so too could Fabinho, another vital midfielder.
Jordan Henderson can deputise as the No 6 here with the view to Fabinho, Thiago and Naby Keita starting together against City. Keita is almost certain to start against Benfica after a brilliant performance over in Lisbon and so if Henderson joins him in the middle, Klopp will need to pick a third midfielder from Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Harvey Elliott and James Milner.
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In defence, Van Dijk has accumulated more minutes than any other Liverpool player this season and like Robertson, Thiago and Salah has started all of the last three. Nonetheless it is more likely Joel Matip will be the fifth change to the team. He should be replaced by Ibrahima Konate as he was for the first leg.
Left-back Kostas Tsimikas could be the sixth and final change to replace Robertson. The Greek has proven more than capable when replacing the Scot this term. There is potential for Trent Alexander-Arnold also to be rested but with Joe Gomez not as strong a creative force as the right-back, and the capacity to make five substitutions in the Champions League, Klopp will surely start the former and hope he can bring Gomez on in the second half.
Starting Tsimikas, Konate, Keita, Jones, Diaz and Firmino would mean six changes from the draw at City but Liverpool would still be more than strong enough to oust Benfica. And having the likes of Salah, Fabinho and Thiago refreshed for the games against City and United could prove pivotal.