Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp reviews Newcastle United win
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Liverpool host Real Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, having recently found some form after a difficult period for Jurgen Klopp’s outfit. The Reds have secured back-to-back victories against Everton and Newcastle and kept clean sheets in both games, putting them in their strongest position to take on Los Blancos for perhaps the entire season.
Virgil van Dijk, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota have all recently returned from injuries to give Klopp potentially his strongest squad of the season as he has been handed selection dilemmas across the pitch. The Netherlands defender made his first appearance since January 2 as he started the victory at St James’ Park, while Firmino and Jota have come off the bench in both of the last two victories. Here, Express Sport looks at four players who could drop out from the win over Newcastle to face Real Madrid.
Joe Gomez was chosen to partner Van Dijk against Newcastle, retaining his place over Joel Matip from the side that won the Merseyside derby. However, Klopp may opt for a more experienced partnership of Van Dijk and Matip to help contain the likes of Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr.
Ibrahima Konate was preferred in the Champions League final in May but with the Frenchman unlikely to return from a hamstring injury in time, Klopp will have to decide between Matip and Gomez.
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Liverpool’s sole January transfer could be in line for just his Champions League appearance having established himself into the Reds’ starting lineup during the absence of Jota, Firmino and Luis Diaz. Despite his improved performances in the last two games, Klopp may opt for the top-level experience of either Firmino or Jota instead of Gakpo and introduce the Dutchman off the bench.
Though Gakpo joined Klopp for the pre-match press conference and admitted he was eager to compete in Europe for the Reds. “It’s going to be my second game in the Champions League,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I have to prove I can perform at that level, and I’m eager to do that.”
Liverpool’s skipper has not been the first name on the teamsheet this season under Klopp and could miss out if the German boss opts for a different profile of player in midfield alongside Fabinho and Stefan Bajcetic.
Harvey Elliott and James Milner came on for Jordan Henderson and Bajcetic on the hour mark and either could come into the team for Henderson while Klopp initially preferred Naby Keita in the middle of the pitch ahead of the England star, though the captain’s experience could be vital against a strong Madrid side.
Darwin Nunez could drop out of the side as he landed awkwardly on his shoulder and was forced off the pitch against Newcastle. Klopp confirmed that he could feature, but was unable to state definitively whether he would be involved in his press conference. “There’s a chance,” Klopp said regarding Nunez. “We will see how he is later and then make a decision.”
Both Jota and Firmino would be pushing to play if Nunez is unavailable, as they could make their first starts since returning from their respective injuries.
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