Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been urged to drop Joe Gomez and replace him with Fabinho for Saturday’s Merseyside derby showdown with Everton at Goodison Park. The Reds face their neighbours across Stanley Park still reeling from a 7-2 loss to Aston Villa prior to the international break.
After a strong start to their top-flight title defence with three wins from three, the Reds crashed to a historic and catastrophic defeat at Villa Park.
Gomez was among those to struggle and found himself hooked after 61 minutes with Fabinho dropping into the back-line.
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The 23-year-old has been criticised for his displays since the Premier League restart and former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy believes Klopp should drop the England international against Carlo Ancelotti’s in-form Everton.
He believes Gomez is struggling from a lack of confidence and fitness with the Merseyside outfit’s back-line having looked more vulnerable than usual of late.
And Liverpool can ill afford to be below their best against Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has nine goals in six games for the Toffees this term and also netted on England duty against Wales at Wembley last week.
Murphy wrote in his Daily Mail column: “We cannot gloss over the defeat at Villa of course. Joe Gomez, in particular, has struggled in the heart of the defence this season.
“He does not look as confident, or even fit, compared to his prime and the manager faces a big decision whether to take him out of the firing line.
“It is always a tricky call. Some players benefit from having a breather, gather their thoughts and come back stronger.
“I always liked to have that final chance if I was out of form and invariably put in a better performance. For me, rising to the challenge helped, whereas being dropped might have knocked my confidence.
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“I do not know Gomez’s character but from the outside, I would say it would be better for Liverpool if Fabinho partnered Virgil van Dijk for the derby, particularly as Klopp should have other strong options in midfield.
“The middle of a back four is such a crucial part of the pitch and particularly so for Liverpool on this occasion, because Everton’s main strength is their front three, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring every time he plays.”
Murphy added: “In theory, Everton will be happier than Liverpool at having the Merseyside derby next up in the Premier League at Goodison Park on Saturday.
“They are on a great run of form with maximum points under Carlo Ancelotti, while Liverpool were drubbed 7-2 at Aston Villa in their last game and have not had time to work on mistakes, with players scattered around the world on international duty.
“For the first time for many years, the blue half of the city will understandably go into the game expecting to win but in football you are best to be careful, particularly given a team as good as this Liverpool.
“We all know Jurgen Klopp’s men have great resilience and character besides their obvious quality.
“They have jumped over nearly every hurdle in the past couple of seasons and bounced back from losing European finals, let alone one league game at Villa Park.
“Everton will not have the advantage of a full house roaring them on and Liverpool may even benefit from Ancelotti’s side being so confident they will get on the front foot.
“If I was in the blue dressing-room, I would say beware the wounded animal, particularly as Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara should be all right to return.”
Liverpool will benefit from the return of at least three players at Goodison Park, with captain Jordan Henderson available again.
Henderson played 66 minutes of England’s Nations League win over Belgium on Sunday having missed the win over Arsenal and the loss to Villa with a thigh problem.
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Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara also returned to Liverpool training on Monday after their respective 10-day isolation periods following positive coronavirus tests.
The trio could return to the Reds’ starting line-up at Everton, particularly with Naby Keita’s availability uncertain after he tested positive for COVID-19 at the weekend.
Liverpool centre-back Joel Matip is also close to full fitness and will hope to compete with Gomez for a spot alongside Van Dijk.
Kostas Tsimikas is another who Liverpool will hope to welcome back to the fold after the break after he was absent for the past two top-flight matches with a thigh injury.
But Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alisson Becker both remained sidelined with knee and shoulders knocks respectively.
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