Liverpool are back at Anfield this weekend as they prepare to take on an in-form Aston Villa side, hoping to make it three wins from three ahead of the first international break of the new season.
The Reds will be in high spirits after last Sunday’s dramatic comeback win at St James’ Park, which saw a late Darwin Nuñez double turn the game on its head, handing a 10-man Liverpool all three points.
The win put Jurgen Klopp’s side fourth in the table after the first three games, and given that league position can change at the flip of a switch during this early stage of the season, the Reds boss will be eager to maintain the club’s unbeaten start to the campaign with victory against the Villans.
That said, while the Reds managed to reign supreme over Newcastle after 90 minutes, Liverpool’s performance in that game left much to be desired, and a shake-up in the starting XI should be expected.
So, with that, let’s take a look at how Liverpool could line up this Sunday.
READ MORE: Liverpool vs Aston Villa – Match Preview
Forced changes at the back
Klopp won’t be spoiled for choice over defensive options this weekend.
After Virgil van Dijk’s dismissal against the Magpies, paired with the confirmed absence of Ibrahima Konate through injury, Liverpool have two recognised senior centre-backs at their disposal: Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.
Barring any late surprise move for a centre-back on Deadline Day (which looks incredibly unlikely as things stand), you can expect that this will be the pairing Klopp chooses to field in the heart of our back line.
After his encouraging cameo against Newcastle, Jarell Quansah also deserves a mention – but given his lack of senior experience, it’s doubtful that the Reds boss will throw the 20-year-old into the starting lineup just yet.
Quansah’s time will come, though, and he’ll perhaps be handed chances to start against European competition, with trips to LASK, Union Saint-Gilloise and Toulouse all now on the docket after Friday’s Europa League group stage draw.
READ MORE: Jarell Quansah – Liverpool’s next academy star?
Away from the centre-backs, it should be business as usual for Liverpool’s defence against Villa: Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson as full-backs, and our eternal saviour Alisson Becker between the sticks.
Options in midfield
It hasn’t been the easiest of transfer windows to endure as fans, especially after the sagas surrounding Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia.
However, come Friday’s 11pm BST deadline, Liverpool look like they’ve achieved what they set out to do: rebuild the midfield.
With Ryan Gravenberch expected to round out the club’s business, joining Alexis Mac Allister, Dominik Szoboszlai and Wataru Endo on Liverpool’s list of incomings, Klopp now has plenty of options to fill out his midfield three.
On top of the new signings, Curtis Jones is once again an option, after the Reds boss revealed in his pre-match press conference that the Englishman had returned to full training this week following his recovery from injury.
Harvey Elliott and Stefan Bajcetic also appear to be available, having both started on the bench against Newcastle.
One man who won’t be involved, however, is Thiago Alcantara, who suffered another minor setback in his rehabilitation from a long-term hip injury and is now not expected to return until after the September international break.
READ MORE: Jurgen Klopp provides injury updates ahead of Aston Villa clash
A blow that may be, but Liverpool nevertheless have an abundance of midfield options to choose from.
While some may be hoping that Gravenberch, should he sign, will be thrown straight into the starting XI, this is admittedly unlikely given Klopp’s hesitance to thrust new players into the team before they’ve had a chance to settle.
Similarly, Jones is just returning from injury, so an appearance off the bench would appear more likely.
As such, it is likely Klopp will stick with the midfield three that started on Tyneside, allowing Mac Allister and Szoboszlai to continue to thrive, while giving Endo another chance to get adjusted to the pace and style of the Premier League.
A deserved call-up in attack
If anyone deserves to start against Villa, it’s last weekend’s match-winner: Darwin Nuñez.
The Uruguayan has been forced to settle with a place on the bench for the first three games of the season, only being given limited minutes to have an impact on the game.
Against Chelsea and Bournemouth, the Uruguayan used his cameo to inject energy and chaos into the attack, as he so often does. However, in both games, he came up short of any goal contributions.
This was not the case against Newcastle. Scoring the two goals to single-handedly change the course of the game, Nuñez grabbed the headlines and re-established his presence and importance in this Liverpool team.
After the events of last weekend, there is no doubt who should be leading the line; it should be our new number nine.
On the right, Mohamed Salah will likely keep his place after assisting last week’s winner – a reminder that he’ll be playing against Aston Villa, not Al Ittihad, with Liverpool giving no consideration to a mammoth Deadline Day bid for the Egyptian.
READ MORE: Liverpool fans reveal how much it would take to sell Mohamed Salah
Finally, after being the unlucky victim of last Sunday’s mid-game shake-up following Van Dijk’s red card, Luis Diaz deserves to regain his place on the wing against Villa.
Diaz has been in sparkling form since the start of the season and will be hoping to continue in fine stead, causing all sorts of trouble down that left-hand side.
Diogo Jota and Cody Gakpo will feel hard done by as they take their places on the bench, but that’s simply what happens when your attacking ranks are brimming with the quality Liverpool have at the moment.
Liverpool starting XI predicted to face Aston Villa
(4-3-3) Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Endo, Mac Allister, Szoboszlai; Salah, Nuñez, Diaz.