After a miraculous midweek comeback against Borussia Dortmund to reach the Europa League semi-finals, Liverpool now switch their attention towards Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon in the Premier League.
Dejan Lovren wrote himself into Anfield folklore when he headed home James Milner’s cross to complete a miraculous fightback against one of the best sides in football.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are now just three games away from winning their first major trophy since 2012 and the German will now undoubtedly prioritise the European competition over the Premier League.
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A fourth-place finish in the top flight looks near impossible for the Merseyside outfit and the only viable way of qualifying for the Champions League next season is to win the Europa League.
Effectively, the league is a right off for Liverpool. They look to be heading towards a fifth-place finish at best and Kopites wouldn’t hesitate to finish the season a few places lower in the league if it meant Europa League glory.
It’s likely that Klopp will select an under-strength team against Bournemouth and save his main protagonists for Liverpool’s clash against Villarreal at the end of the month.
The Reds too have an affair with local rivals Everton midweek. The Merseyside derby is a fixture every Kopite wants to win and is often a frantic affair, and Klopp will want a full-strength team to face the Toffees and regain the city bragging rights.
Goalkeeper – Simon Mignolet
Simon Mignolet has had his critics during his time at Liverpool but it could have been game over against Dortmund but for two vital saves from him when the German outfit were already two ahead.
The Belgium international is still not fully convincing between the sticks at Anfield and it’s likely his manager will bring in a new shot-stopper in the summer to give Mignolet competition.
However, another clean sheet will give him plenty of confidence ahead of facing Villarreal.
Right back – Jon Flanagan
The Liverpool born-and-bred defender will have been gutted he could not take part in Thursday’s heroics after not being registered for the Europa League.
Nathaniel Clyne was caught day-dreaming for both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marco Reus’ goals and Flanagan will be determined to pip his fellow countryman in the pecking order.
Flanagan is a favourite amongst all supporters. He is an honest, old-fashioned full-back who plays with the badge on his sleeve and is Liverpool through-and-through.
Although he’ll never create fireworks going forward, he’s a solid defender who never shirks out of the challenge and very seldom makes a major error. Sunday’s clash against the Cherries gives him yet another opportunity to show Klopp how important having home-grown talent in the team is.
Centre back – Martin Skrtel
The defensive pair of Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho have formed a formidable partnership in the heart of the back-four and it looks difficult to see them losing their place to face Villarreal.
Martin Skrtel was Brendan Rodgers’ main defender when he was in the Anfield hotseat but the Slovakia international has fallen out of favour under Klopp.
He made his return for an injured Lovren against Southampton last month when Liverpool were in cruise control 2-0 up. However, a series of mistakes from Skrtel seen the Reds somehow throw away their lead and return to Merseyside empty-handed.
Both Lovren and Sakho were rested for Liverpool’s 4-1 win against Stoke City last week and it’s likely they could both be benched again. If Skrtel is to prove his stock to Klopp, he must show his authority against Bournemouth.
Centre-back – Kolo Toure
Kolo Toure looks probable to partner Skrtel again like he did against the Potters.
Despite being 35-years-old, the Ivory Coast international is still able to compete at the top level and has become a cult hero amongst Reds supporters.
When he joined Liverpool three-years-ago, he knew he would be a fringe player but has filled in admirably for the most part when needed.
Left back – Brad Smith
It’s quite remarkable that Brad Smith was almost allowed to leave the club on a free last year.
How the Aussie-born full-back has turned his fortunes around and has become a solid member of Klopp’s squad, and has a bright future ahead.
Alberto Moreno currently commands the position of left-back and his attacking attributes will give Liverpool plenty when they travel to Spain later in the month.
Jones is a worthy replacement for Moreno, however. He’s blessed with natural speed and has a wicked left foot and will look to get plenty of crosses into the box.
Defensive midfield – Lucas
After a period in the sick room, Lucas is slowly and surely making his return to action.
Substitute appearances against Stoke and Dortmund have helped the Brazilian in his search for full fitness and he’ll be hungry to win his second piece of silverware at the Reds.
With Emre Can out of the two semi-final legs against Villarreal, it’s likely Lucas, who replaced Can on Thursday, will likely be given the nod by Klopp to protect Liverpool’s rearguard.
The ex-Gremio man will have a pivotal role to play when the Reds travel to Spain and ensure they return to Merseyside with a clean sheet and also keeping one against Bournemouth.
Centre midfield – Joe Allen
Once a pantomime villain at Liverpool, Joe Allen has slowly but surely developed himself into a respected player amongst supporters.
The Welshman changed the game when he came on as a substitute against Dortmund when 3-1 down. Allen’s fresh legs helped Liverpool keep composed on the ball and distributed it wisely, as well as chasing down yellow shirts relentlessly without the ball.
With Jordan Henderson and Can out for the rest of the season, Allen will be given plenty of responsibility by his manager and he’ll be desperate to repay Klopp’s faith.
Centre midfield – James Milner
The Leeds-born veteran has had a fine maiden campaign at Liverpool and was a key player against Dortmund.
It was his inch-perfect cross that found the head of Lovren in the dying stages and he also ran himself ragged from the first until the final minute.
Milner has not just been a workhorse for the Reds but has been in fruitful form going forward. He’s registered five goals and nine assists in the league this term, proving much more valuable than many expected.
He’ll carry the captains armband for the rest of the season in the absence of Henderson and could once again be an inspirational skipper on the south coast.
Attacking midfield – Adam Lallana
Adam Lallana was disappointing against Dortmund on Thursday evening.
The England international never really got going and struggled to adapt to the pace of the game, and also missed a glorious chance in the first-half.
Places are up for grabs to face Villarreal and a much-improved performance against the side he went on loan to in 2007 is needed if he features in the Europa League semi-final.
Klopp will want Philippe Coutinho at his peak to face both Everton and Villarreal and Roberto Firmino is a player who the ex-Mainz boss also has a lot of faith in.
Lallana is gifted with natural skill and flair and, if he bounces back to his best, should give Eddie Howe’s men something to think about.
Attacking midfield – Sheyi Ojo
In terms of young talent, Sheyi Ojo looks one of Liverpool’s brightest.
The 18-year-old enjoyed a successful loan spell at Wolves during the first-half of the season before being recalled for service.
Ojo has all of the attributes a manager looks in an attacker; power, pace, strength and the ability to pick out his man and has bundles of potential.
He displayed all of those things in his first league start against Stoke last week. He skipped past Xherdan Shaqiri before teeing up Daniel Sturridge on a plate for Liverpool’s second before the break.
The England youth international has done enough to retain his place in the league and will be hungry to continue to impress.
Striker – Daniel Sturridge
It seems strange that Sturridge is no longer Liverpool’s first-choice striker.
Divock Origi has seemingly leapfrogged the former Chelsea man in the pecking order after starting up top in both legs against Dortmund and the Belgium’s form has been sublime.
Origi’s willingness and work-rate from the front is admired by Klopp but this looks a tie that may be more with Sturridge’s forte.
Sturridge is one of the deadliest strikers in the Premier League and his goalscoring record at Liverpool is impeccable. He’ll be determined to win his place back and will be on the hunt to punish Bournemouth on their own patch.
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