It’s back to Wembley for Liverpool with another trophy to fight for and, with one enforced absence, Jurgen Klopp has a number of selection decisions to make against Chelsea.
The Reds are in their first FA Cup final under Klopp and for the second time this season, Chelsea awaits in the showpiece.
This is to be the fourth meeting between the two clubs this season and the three so far have been fiercely contested, with all ending in a draw over 90 minutes and needing a shootout to separate the two on one occasion.
Saturday’s final will be expected to follow a similar script even if Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 15 games and Chelsea have lost four in the same number of games.
And Klopp will have to navigate the final without Fabinho, while Thomas Tuchel is set to take the risk in his midfield selection.
Here’s how Liverpool could line up at Wembley.
While Fabinho is ruled out on Saturday, Klopp did have some welcome news regarding his Champions League final chances:
- The midfielder “will definitely be back” for the final on May 28
- The feeling is “all very positive” regarding Fabinho‘s hamstring recovery
- No further issues; 31-man squad trained at Kirkby on Thursday, including Keita
Liverpool’s XI vs. Chelsea
After making a handful of changes at Villa Park, you expect the same again at Wembley and five changes would not come as a surprise.
With Fabinho an enforced absentee, Klopp has a decision to make regarding who takes the final midfield spot next to Jordan Henderson and Thiago, with Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and James Milner the likely candidates.
There is then the battle between Ibrahima Konate, who has played in each FA Cup game this season, and Joel Matip at the back, in addition to the overwhelming choices to make up the front three.
It makes for a strong XI either way, but this is how Klopp could send out his team:
- Konate and Robertson return at the back
- Henderson in the No. 6 role and joined by Thiago and Keita
- And Salah links back up with Diaz and Mane
This would have Liverpool lining up like this:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Keita; Salah, Diaz, Mane
But there could be a place for the likes of Matip, Jones and Diogo Jota – even if all three did start at Villa Park on Tuesday.
With a start unlikely for Roberto Firmino after failing to feature in the last seven games, Jota could be opted for from the start with Diaz to instead offer a late spark.
They would each warrant their place in the side but this XI would not offer as many fresh legs as the abovementioned XI, something Klopp will no doubt weigh up:
- Matip to keep place and make second final appearance
- Jones to join Henderson and Thiago as right-sided midfielder
- Jota to start up top alongside Mane and Salah
Those tweaks see Liverpool shape up as follows:
Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Jota, Mane
You feel the consensus will largely favour the first XI listed, which some will argue is now the strongest possible XI in Fabinho‘s absence.
It’s a side capable of getting the job done but finishers from the bench could prove just as significant, as they did in the League Cup final, as there is no guarantee this one is concluded in 90 minutes.