Nine of the eleven players who won convincingly at Atalanta are likely to start. Joel Matip could take the place of Rhys Williams in the central defender if the Cameroonian is fully fit and Curtis Jones’ place in midfield is confirmed.
Up front, hat-trick hero Diogo Jota certainly needs to keep his place on the team, with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah on either side, considering how well the trio worked together in Bergamo.
And that would mean Roberto Firmino, who came off the bench in the last 25 minutes of the Champions League, had to settle for another cameo from the sidelines.
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On the post-game podcast, when Liverpool beat Atalanta 5-0 in Italy, Reds fans made their feelings clear about Jota’s performance as he scored a hat-trick and put on a show that almost sure does him at Etihad on Sunday Stadium to start.
The Portuguese was withdrawn after a blow at Bergamo but the injury is not believed to be serious and it is unlikely that he will be off training before the trip to Manchester.
But even considering how well Jota played, it would be a huge achievement to leave Firmino off the team, a player who was steadfast for Klopp during his time at Anfield.
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Having the Brazilian on the sidelines to get off the bench would be a significant improvement on what Liverpool had for him last season.
The last time Liverpool needed a player to change the game against Pep Guardiola’s team, they had to turn to Xherdan Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge – that was the penultimate season the Reds lost 3-0 and 4-0 half an hour to play City in the last two games.
Shaqiri wouldn’t be a bad option this time around given his recent form, but he hasn’t been available for much of last season. Had Liverpool needed a game changer in November 2019, Divock Origi would have been the man, but he couldn’t even make the bench 12 months later.
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With Jota in the club, Liverpool have brought more quality to the starting line-up for this game after the Portuguese have worked their way into the team.
The impact of this, instead of being negative in company appearances, should be viewed as positive. The fact that Firmino may not start a potentially season-defining game reflects more the depth of Liverpool’s squad than the Brazilian’s probably below-average performance.
Conversely, City have had to start six without a recognized striker this season as Sergio Aguero has been missing due to injuries, including the last three games in a row, and the Argentina international will no longer be available.
As they turn to Gabriel Jesus to bring quality to their front after he returned from the bench with a goal in the Champions League on Tuesday night, Liverpool have a choice.
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