Liverpool team news: Expected 4-3-3 for Man City clash – Three changes, Klopp to drop Jota

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has a couple of tricky calls to make in his starting line-up for the trip to Manchester City tomorrow (4.30pm kick-off), as the Reds prepare to do battle with their Premier League title rivals at the Etihad.

Liverpool travel to Manchester without three influential players in Virgil Van Dijk, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also remains out injured.

But the Premier League champions are at least boosted by the availability of Joel Matip while Naby Keita and Kostas Tsimikas returned to action in midweek.

Klopp’s men put five past Atalanta in the Champions League as they thrashed the Italian side in Bergamo courtesy of a Diogo Jota hat-trick.

Jota, 23, now has six goals in his past four games and has seven goals in 10 Liverpool appearances overall.

The Portuguese attacker replaced Roberto Firmino as the central forward against Atalanta and dovetailed brilliantly with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who also both scored.

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Yet Klopp came out in full defence of Firmino in his pre-City press conference, with the Brazilian having come in for flak due for his goalscoring return in recent months.

Klopp said of Jota: “I’m not sure if ‘surprised’ is the right word, but I don’t expect that, to be honest.

“He is the player we thought he will be and we thought as well that we can help him to reach the next level, like he can help us to reach the next level because of his quality. I am really happy about the impact he had so far.”

But speaking about Firmino, he added: “I don’t have to say about Bobby Firmino and how important he was for us. So I don’t waste time with that. Who is not with us, I don’t care if they know about him, to be honest.

“He was in so many games the difference-maker – without scoring maybe, but with scoring as well in other games. So I would feel really embarrassed if I have to mention now the qualities of Bobby Firmino.”

And with it expected Liverpool will line up with a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-2-3-1 – which leaves them slightly more exposed in the absence of Fabinho and Thiago – Firmino is expected to return to the starting eleven.

Klopp can then call on the likes of Jota, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri from the substitutes’ bench, as he did against West Ham a week ago.

Salah and Mane will start out wide having scored a combined seven goals for Liverpool against City.

In midfield, captain Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum will keep their places from the win over Atalanta, leaving one spot available.

Former City midfielder Milner is an experienced option but Klopp may opt to inject extra creative quality into his midfield in the shape of the returning Keita, who played 25 minutes in Italy on Tuesday night.

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Keita started Liverpool’s first four matches of the season while 34-year-old Milner has still yet to start a league match this season, coming off the bench on five occasions.

Defensively, Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez all pick themselves in goal and in the back four respectively.

That leaves Joel Matip fighting the inexperienced duo of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips for minutes alongside Gomez.

Williams helped keep a clean sheet against Atalanta while Phillips impressed in last weekend’s win over the Hammers on his Premier League debut.

But following the Liverpool manager’s pre-match comments, Matip should return to the side for just his third Premier League start since 20 October 2019.

“With the centre-backs it’s been good,” Klopp said. “The boys enjoyed the challenge, it was a challenge, it is a challenge so now we saw that they are obviously able to do some really special stuff and I’m really happy about that.

“Yes, Joel is back and he’s now back 7-8-9 days in training which helps a lot. And after the game, there will be another 14 days training for him so that helps as well. So we will see what we do on Sunday.”

Full predicted Liverpool XI vs Man City: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Matip, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mane

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