Liverpool have flitted between a double-pivot and a three-man midfield of late, switching between what Jürgen Klopp and several of his players have referred to as a 4-4-2 and their usual 4-3-3 formation.
Against Manchester City, it would be an incredibly bold move to play a two-man midfield, no matter the combination of Thiago Alcântara, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. While none have been at their absolute best this season — at times, in fact, far from it — going without one of them against Erling Haaland, Kevin de Bruyne and co would be a gamble.
If Liverpool did opt to go down that path, though — reasoning that their 4-3-3 has not worked anyway at times this season, Fabinho has been off the boil and they are just as likely to outscore Manchester City than keep them out — their attack could still do with some refining, despite successful outings against Rangers.
Klopp could leave himself with the likes of Harvey Elliott and Fábio Carvalho on the bench, still playing the same four attackers who are first choice (aside from the absent Luis Díaz), but in a slightly different order, to get even more from the £170m quartet.
Up to this point, Liverpool have primarily played with Mohamed Salah on the right and Díaz on the left in their 4-4-2, but there are two issues with that: Díaz is no longer available to select, while Salah has often looked isolated on the right flank.
Darwin Núñez is yet to properly get himself up to speed but has been scoring goals, while Diogo Jota missed most of the Rangers game midweek because he wasn’t fit enough to play the entire 90 minutes.
Assuming that Liverpool have all four attacking players to call upon on Sunday, they could use all four from the start at Anfield, but just in different positions. Roberto Firmino would still be the number 10, but the other three could rotate around a little.
Salah is much better when he is closer to goal, as he proved in the Champions League with a record-breaking hat-trick. But he scored those goals from a central position — something Liverpool need to find for him again.
If he were to play centrally alongside Firmino, Núñez could play off the wing — a position he has played for Benfica before — in a kind of Sadio Mané inside-left role. That could give a better out-ball over the top (a key strength of Núñez’s) rather than attempting long passes in the air through the middle, and would give João Cancelo enough to think about to stop him from running riot going the other way. The Portugal international has more often been fielded on the other side over the past year or so, but injuries could see him feature on Manchester City’s left.
That would leave Jota as the right-sided player for Liverpool, with the fellow Portugal star having played there successfully at club level before. He would be able to help Joe Gomez — or whoever plays at right-back, amid a possible reshuffle following a potential Ibrahima Konaté setback — rather than forcing Salah backwards, leaving the Egyptian primed for counter-attacks.
Going with a four-man attack would be an admission that Manchester City were going to score, but that Liverpool back themselves to score at least as many. But going with this version of the front-footed formation would get more from Salah and Núñez, rather than enhancing the effectiveness of one at the expense of the other.
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