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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is currently on cloud nine following back to back away wins and despite missing out on several defensive options through injuries, his squad rotation as well as shifting midfield duo Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum to makeshift defensive roles earned the German gaffer an exquisite 5-1 triumph over Brighton & Hove Albion at AMEX Stadium.
Their weekend win would have given them a lot of confidence ahead of their Wednesday night Anfield clash against Spartak Moscow, which is now a crucial encounter in the context of Champions League Round of 16 qualification. The Reds gave up a 3-0 lead against Sevilla and the eventual 3-3 draw has made this game relevant for both the outfits: Spartak need a win, whereas, a draw, at least, will do for the hosts to seal a knockout berth.
Liverpool suffered a major injury blow ahead of the Brighton trip as their Cameroonian centre-back Joel Matip will miss up to one month’s football due to a thigh injury. Nathaniel Clyne is ruled out until February following his back surgery and has not been included in the Reds’ squad for the group stage fixtures.
Joe Gomez missed out the Brighton game with an illness but is expected to return to full training ahead of the midweek clash. There is no other injury report as of now and Klopp’s squad rotation has kept most of the players fit and fresh in such a hectic schedule.
Attack is the best form of defence in Klopp’s ‘heavy metal football’ and although a draw will be enough to seal a round of 16 berth, Liverpool are expected to go for all three points and finish as group leaders ahead of Sevilla. Klopp has been flexible since his Wembley woes against Tottenham and has experimented with his set-up and line-up.
He has played ‘back-three’ on a couple of occasions too and the Reds were victorious both the times. As Ragnar Klavan is available, Klopp is tipped to field his usual 4-3-3 formation against the Russian champions.
The young German custodian has been second-fiddle to Simon Mignolet but is preferred as the first-choice in Champions League outings and should return between the sticks despite conceding erroneously from Fernando’s free-kick during these two sides’ first-leg meeting.
Although Trent Alexander-Arnold was sensational against the Seagulls on Saturday afternoon, Gomez is set to return after recovering from illness and his recent run of form makes him one of the most integral members of the Liverpool backline.
Lovren has improved immensely since his Wembley massacre against Spurs and should lead the backline in the absence of Joel Matip.
Klavan’s lack of fitness forced Klopp to play Wijnaldum and Can in unusual defensive roles, but the Estonian’s return will allow the gaffer some breathing space and Klavan is expected to partner Dejan Lovren in the heart of Liverpool defence.
Moreno’s impressive run hit a massive setback against his former side Sevilla in the previous Champions League fixture as his errors led the Spanish outfit to score twice early in the second half. Moreno was taken off, but an injury-time equaliser robbed Liverpool of a win and the Reds failed to secure a round of 16 berth with a game in hand. The Spaniard, however, was rested against Brighton on Saturday and is expected to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday night.
The Dutchman was explored in a makeshift centre-back role but is expected to return to his usual central midfield role against Spartak Moscow in Liverpool’s final group stage encounter.
Can, too, was outstanding in a makeshift central defensive role and scored the opener against the Seagulls that broke the deadlock after half-an-hour into the game. Can, despite having disputes over a new contract, has shown immense commitment and his presence will help the Reds to dominate the game in the middle of the park.
Coutinho had his best outing this season against Brighton where he scored from a majestic free-kick and contributed to the rest of the goals. The Brazilian is expected carry the ball forward from deep to an advanced midfield position with his exquisite dribbling skills.
Premier League’s top scorer so far this season couldn’t add his name to the scoresheet in their 5-1 triumph over Brighton but will be determined to find the back of the net against the midweek counterparts who will be desperate to win and Liverpool will be looking to hit back from counter attacks led by the Egyptian, with his tremendous pace and agility.
Mane was rested on Saturday despite playing a pivotal role in Liverpool’s 3-0 away win on a cold windy night at Stoke and should return against the Russian heavyweights to show off his skills, pace and scoring traits.
The Brazilian’s hard work has made him the first name in Klopp’s teamsheet and Firmino, too, will be hoping to continue his scoring form on Wednesday night following a weekend brace over Brighton.