Liverpool Premier League

LIVERPOOL COULD MAKE FIVE CHANGES VS CHELSEA AS DEFENDER RETURNS

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LIVERPOOL COULD MAKE FIVE CHANGES VS CHELSEA AS DEFENDER RETURNS

 

 

Liverpool produced a five-star performance with their win over Norwich City as they progressed into the FA Cup fifth round.

 

There were five different goalscorers with Curtis Jones, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Gravenberch on the scoresheet in the 5-2 win. Conor Bradley was the pick of the bunch as he provided two assists with youngster James McConnell finding Jones for the opener.

 

Premier League action returns on Wednesday as Liverpool and Chelsea meet in their dress rehearsal for next month’s Carabao Cup final. The encounter is the reverse of their opening-day fixture that saw Axel Disasi cancel out Luis Diaz’s opener in the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

 

Trent Alexander-Arnold was an unused substitute during Sunday’s win but his inclusion was a positive step in his recovery from a knee injury. The Liverpool vice-captain provided a worry when he was ruled out of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Fulham, as well as win over the Cherries, but his return comes creates a defensive dilemma for Jurgen Klopp.

 

Bradley hasn’t put a foot wrong since replacing the England international. Sunday’s Player of the Match could maintain his place at right-back following a string of four successive starts but the threat of Chelsea will be a test of Klopp’s trust.

 

The same goes at left-back, Joe Gomez has been impeccable since taking up the mantle in the absence of Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas. Robertson made his eagerly anticipated return to the pitch on Sunday after being sidelined since October with a shoulder injury. His timely return is a positive headache for Klopp, but the form of Gomez and the possibility of ring rust for the Scot makes a case for the England defender to maintain his place.

 

Virgil van Dijk scored from the bench on Sunday, replacing Ibrahima Konate, while Jarell Quansah started from the offset. But with Joel Matip injured, a defensive duo of Van Dijk and Konate is to be expected.

“He felt a little bit and we just said no, no and I don’t want to know more, so that’s just it. We gave him a rest. I think he should be ready for Wednesday,” Jurgen Klopp said following Sunday’s win.

 

Mac Allister took a heavy hit during the midweek Carabao Cup win over Fulham. The Argentine was fine to continue at Craven Cottage.

 

There was no reasoning behind the 25-year-old’s absence for the win over Norwich but, judging by Klopp’s reaction he was offered the opportunity to rest. McConnell deputised in his full Liverpool debut, and barely put a foot wrong in the deep number six role.

 

Mac Allister has enjoyed an upturn in form following a tough start. With Wataru Endo still on Asia Cup duty with Japan, the midfielder has made his claim to return as the holding player.

 

Jones was replaced shortly before the hour mark as he was afforded a rest with Liverpool 3-1 up on Sunday. There was no room for Harvey Elliott which could offer an inkling into a return to the midfield three that started against AFC Bournemouth. Dominik Szoboszlai’s strong cameo was a welcome sign as he marked his return to competitive football, following a hamstring injury in the New Year’s Day win over Newcastle United.

 

Nunez on the left?

 

Nunez and Jota were both in the goals on Sunday. Nunez restored Liverpool’s lead, six minutes after Ben Gibson’s equaliser, with a thumping finish into the bottom corner.

 

The Uruguayan was withdrawn shortly after the hour mark and replaced by Cody Gakpo. Jota continued his scoring streak to give the Reds a two-goal cushion eight minutes after the restart. Egypt may have been eliminated by DR Congo in the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday but Mohamed Salah remains sidelined with a hamstring injury.

 

Luis Diaz was given an 11-minute cameo, possibly with a eye on Wednesday, to keep the Colombian ticking along. The trio started against AFC Bournemouth and after their showing in recent matches, you would expect to see Nunez, Jota and Diaz handed starting berths.

 

Starting changes: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Gomez; Jones, Mac Allister, Elliott; Diaz, Jota, Nunez.

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