Liverpool travel to Bramall Lane to face bottom club Sheffield United on Sunday, as they aim to get back to winning ways in the Premier League.
The Reds were hot favourites to retain the Premier League title this season, but injuries coupled with poor form in recent months has seen Jurgen Klopp’s side drop to sixth in the table. This has seen them fall 19 points behind high-flying league leaders Manchester City.
Liverpool’s title chances have been completely derailed in recent weeks, with Klopp’s men tasting four consecutive defeats in the Premier League, three of which came at Anfield. The latest defeat came against arch-rivals Everton, who registered their first league win at Anfield since 1999 and ended a run of 24 games without victory against their cross-town foes.
With only 13 matches left to play and the league title certainly out of reach, Klopp’s priority will be to achieve a top-four finish this season. And for that to happen, the German tactician must help his side rediscover a consistent streak starting with the game against Sheffield United.
That being said, here are three things Klopp should do to help Liverpool get back to winning ways in the Premier League.
Give Ben Davies his debut at Bramall Lane
Liverpool have suffered a miserable defensive injury crisis this season, losing Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to long-term injury. This has seen Klopp use midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson in central defence; however, both have suffered an injury of their own.
Due to an injury crisis at the back, the Reds signed Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies from Schalke and Preston North End respectively during the January transfer window. Kabak has endured a mixed start to life at his new club, putting in a poor display on his debut at Leicester City before impressing against RB Leipzig in the Champions League.
With Kabak showing signs of settling in at Liverpool, the game against Sheffield United could be the perfect time for Klopp to hand Ben Davies his debut. Davies had established himself as a solid Championship defender and Klopp should trust the 25-year-old to build a partnership with Kabak at the heart of Liverpool’s defence.
Change the formation to 4-2-3-1
Sheffield United have conceded 41 goals in 25 games, 12 in their last seven league games. They are struggling to keep things tight at the back and have lost four out of their last five matches.
This should be enough for Klopp to go all out at the Blades. With Liverpool themselves having lost their last four games and desperate to get back to winning ways, Klopp must change his usual 4-3-3 formation to 4-2-3-1 and sacrifice one of his central midfielders for a creative player.
In short, adding more threat to the Reds’ attack has to be Klopp’s approach on Sunday.
Start Salah at no.9, Shaqiri on the right flank
Liverpool’s attack is not bursting with goals, with their famed trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino lacking belief and confidence in front of goal at the moment.
Mane has netted just seven goals in 22 games to date, of which the last came in the 3-1 win over Tottenham in January. Firmino has looked a shadow of himself in recent months, managing only six goals in 25 league appearances. It’s a shame to see because the Brazilian is a top player when he wants to be, but he looks lost and devoid of self-confidence.
Salah has carried the goalscoring burden almost single-handedly this season. Despite missing chances in many games—most recently against Everton—he has 17 goals in 24 appearances. It is a healthy strike rate and Klopp should unleash the Egyptian down the middle against Sheffield United’s leaky defence.
By doing so, the Liverpool boss will get an opportunity to add more cutting edge to his attack, and in that regard, he must start Xherdan Shaqiri on the right flank and use Firmino in the no.10 role. The prospect of Mane, Salah, Firmino and Shaqiri linking up could give the Blades’ defenders a run for their money and end Liverpool’s dreadful run of four consecutive defeats on Sunday.