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Liverpool team news vs West Ham: The expected 4-3-3 line up with Matip injury causing defensive crisis

Reds have three recognised centre-backs out with long-term injuries and Klopp will have to shuffle his pack once again on Sunday

Jurgen Klopp’s search for a new defender with just hours of the transfer window remaining will continue into the weekend but the Liverpool boss will have to make do with what he’s got for the trip to West Ham on Sunday.

The Reds – already without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez due to injury – lost both Joel Matip and stand-in centre-back Fabinho during Thursday’s 3-1 win over Tottenham. The pair have been ruled out for the journey south.

It means Klopp has a selection dilemma heading into the weekend against an in-form West Ham side that dominates at set pieces.

Klopp will have to restructure his defence once again but there are positives Liverpool can take into this game, particularly in attack following the clinical display against Spurs that ended a three-game winless streak for the defending Premier League champions.

Alisson offers stability in goal

While Liverpool’s defence may have been shaken by fresh injury blows, at least Klopp can rely on Alisson’s consistency between the sticks. The Brazilian has started 10 of Liverpool’s last 11 games and has conceded just four Premier League goals since his return from injury in the draw at Fulham in mid-December.

Klopp needs his goalkeeper more than ever. West Ham have the muscle and stature to cause the Reds major problems from set pieces on Sunday and Alisson will is likely to be called upon to meet crosses into the box.

A meek performance from him and the Reds are at risk of losing this tie against one of the Premier League’s most in-form teams.

Phillips should start in defence

Asked about Matip’s injury, Klopp said: “There is still hope that it’s not that serious. We will know more in three or four hours, hopefully.” That doesn’t sound particularly promising and the manager also confirmed Fabinho won’t feature.

Liverpool team news Nat Phillips
Nat Phillips (right) could come into the Liverpool defence (Photo: REUTERS)

So where does he go from here? Jordan Henderson will almost certainly remain in his makeshift centre-back position, with one of Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams set to join him.

Quizzed about the young duo, Klopp said: “They are both really talented and will have proper careers. We have a lot of faith and trust in the boys. It’s not that every day we give them a book about how to play centre-back.”

It was Phillips who came on for Matip in north London and so he will probably get the nod at the London Stadium.

The good news for Klopp is that Trent Alexander-Arnold is fit and back to his scoring best, while fellow full-back Andrew Robertson should be an automatic choice.

Klopp wary of Burnley mistakes

Klopp chose to withdraw Thiago on 78 minutes against Tottenham in midweek with the Brazilian on a yellow card. And Curtis Jones did a good job holding the midfield as the visitors saw out victory.

Liverpool team news vs West Ham
Liverpool beat Tottenham in midweek despite suffering further defensive injuries (Photo: AFP)

The manager now has a decision to make. Thiago is arguably more effective in the centre of midfield but Gini Wijnaldum is a more likely option to retain his position, so Thiago may remain on the right. James Milner played a dogged 90 minutes on the left and could be replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri or Jones for this fixture.

Klopp will be wary of overusing his troops, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could feature for only the sixth time this season. However, the 27-year-old is likely to start on the bench as the memories of the 1-0 loss to Burnley earlier this month stay at the forefront of Klopp’s mind.

Usual forward line

Bar Diogo Jota, Liverpool have a full-strength attack available. And that means we’re almost certain to see Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah in the usual forward three.

Divock Origi replaced Firmino with three minutes left in London on Thursday and hasn’t produced this season at all. Klopp could even have looked to offload Origi in the January transfer window but the risk of injuries has meant he is keeping his squad tight for now.

Takumi Minamino also seems unlikely to earn many minutes – if any at all. The Japan international has scored just one Premier League goal a year into his stint on Merseyside.

Liverpool predicted XI vs West Ham: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Henderson, Phillips, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri; Salah, Firmino, Mane.


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