How Liverpool could line up vs Fulham without Diogo Jota as two stars provide injury boost
Liverpool will be without Diogo Jota for the trip to Fulham on Sunday afternoon as the Reds nervously await to learn whether or not they will be without the Portuguese winger for a sustained spell. Jota has enjoyed an electric start to his Anfield career but picked up a knee knock in midweek against Midtjylland, as did Kostas Tsimikas.
In his pre-match press conference, Jurgen Klopp declared that Liverpool would see whether or not Jota can play but it has since been confirmed he will not be involved at Craven Cottage.
The Premier League champions do not yet know how long Jota’s knock will keep him out although they will desperately hope it’s not serious as they wait on test results.
The 24-year-old, who played 87 minutes in Europe on Wednesday night, has scored nine goals in 17 games this season since joining from Wolves.
And in his absence, Klopp is expected to go with the tried-and-trusted front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
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Jota has started three of Liverpool’s last four Premier League games but it was the go-to triumvirate who started in the 4-0 thrashing of Wolves last time out.
They will start together again at Fulham with Xherdan Shaqiri out injured and Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino having failed to impress in their cameos this term.
Despite Jota’s absence, Liverpool will be able to name both Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in their starting line-up for the first time since the draw at Manchester City in November.
Right-back Alexander-Arnold captained Liverpool against Midtjylland and came through the full 98 minutes without any repercussions, having spent a month out with a muscle injury.
He came off the bench to produce a wonderful assist in the win over Wolves and will be a welcome returnee in defence.
As will first-choice goalkeeper Alisson, although young Irishman Caoimhin Kelleher has done brilliantly in place of the Brazilian in the past three games.
Having Alisson and Alexander-Arnold back in the starting eleven is a huge boost to Klopp and the German is likely to name Fabinho, Joel Matip and Andy Robertson elsewhere in the back line in what is now their first-choice defence in the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, who are out for the long term with knee problems.
Tsimikas also picked up a problem earlier this week meaning Robertson is a surefire starter, though Klopp will hope the Greek’s issue is not too serious given the festive fixture schedule his side face.
Klopp may have a decision to make in midfield with Naby Keita vying for inclusion over Curtis Jones.
Liverpool academy graduate Jones scored the winning goal in a Champions League clash with Atalanta recently and has been a pivotal player of late.
He was an unused substitute in midweek, though, and should therefore return to the XI this weekend.
Keita, who could make his 50th Premier League appearance, could then be an attack-minded option off of the bench with the Guinean alongside Origi and Minamino.
Alongside Jones, Gini Wijnaldum and captain Jordan Henderson should complete the midfield trio with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still some way from returning to the starting line-up.
He may not even make the squad here, with Klopp having said pre-match: “Oxlade is in normal training. He has been doing parts of training now for a week or so, he is now in full training and we will see.
“So the situation probably demands to involve him as soon as possible, but I don’t know if the weekend is that already.”
Klopp also added of the challenge of Fulham: “They are growing and that is a normal process, by the way, and when you see then the number of points in that area of the table, it is not that somebody is already out of the race or something like that.
“They all have all the chance to stay in [the league] and Fulham is even in a slightly better position than others. That means in this situation, even when the results were so far not perfect, you can still be confident – they can have confidence.
“That’s what we expect. It’s a tough one with supporters [at Craven Cottage], I think, in London.
“With supporters, we felt a week ago the benefit of having our crowd there, so now Fulham, a small stadium, 2,000 people in, it will be a proper atmosphere, so we have to be ready for that.”
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