Liverpool starting lineup to face Sparta Prague - predicted

Liverpool make the long-awaited return to Europa League action on Thursday evening, travelling to the Czech Republic to face Sparta Prague in the last 16. 

The first leg between the two sides promises to be an interesting affair, with Jurgen Klopp having been dealt some selection headaches by the upcoming clash with Manchester City on Sunday.

The Liverpool boss may opt to rest some first-team regulars for the trip to the epet Arena, with predicting how the Reds will line up a tough task indeed.

Here is how Anfield Watch believes Klopp may set his team up against Sparta Prague.

GOALKEEPER & DEFENCE

Caoimhin Kelleher

Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher of Liverpool celebrates his team scoring a goal during the Carabao Cup final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, London, England on 25 February 2024. Copyright: xAndyxRowlandx PMI-6111-0018

Klopp has more senior options available to him across the defence than anywhere else on the field, although the Reds are still without goalkeeper Alisson and defenders Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip.

That means that Caoimhin Kelleher will start again in between the sticks as he aims to continue his impressive form, while Joe Gomez, who has been used as a defensive midfielder in the past two games, could return to right-back in place of Conor Bradley.

Left-back seems pretty straightforward, with Kostas Tsimikas almost guaranteed a start, while Jarell Quansah is likely to be given some more minutes in Europe.

Who partners Quansah is a tough call but Ibrahima Konate may be favoured to offer Virgil van Dijk an important rest before a showdown with Erling Haaland next weekend.

There is also the possibility that Gomez features at centre-back with Bradley at right-back, but only if Klopp is keen to rest both Konate and Van Dijk.

MIDFIELD

Chelsea v Liverpool, London, UK - 25 Feb 2024 Bobby Clark of Liverpool during the EFL Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium, London on 25 February 2024 London Wembley Stadium London England Copyright: xMicahxCrook/PPAUKx PPA-092228

The midfield is still without several important members, including Thiago, Stefan Bajcetic, Ryan Gravenberch and Curtis Jones, but the positive news is that Dominik Szoboszlai and Wataru Endo both returned from the bench against Nottingham Forest at the weekend.

However the former Bundesliga stars could well be rested given their recent fitness concerns, with Bobby Clark, who made his first Premier League start on Saturday, earning another call-up.

Harvey Elliott may be handed a rest after playing a gazillion minutes of football over the past few weeks, with James McConnell and Alexis Mac Allister potentially filling out the rest of the midfield.

The former has been getting more regular outings for Liverpool in recent weeks despite his age, while the latter could provide some much-needed experience in the engine room.

ATTACK

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Luton Town FC LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2024: Liverpool s Cody Gakpo celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Luton Town FC at Anfield. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda LIVERPOOL Anfield MERSEYSIDE ENGLAND PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK Copyright: xDavidxRawcliffex P2024-02-21-Liverpool_Luton-38

Cody Gakpo has not been at his sharpest in recent weeks, but the Dutchman is likely to earn a start on Thursday in a competition that he has thrived in this season.

Darwin Nunez, fresh from his 99th-minute winner against Forest at the weekend, will be rested before the Man City clash, while Diogo Jota remains absent through injury.

Mohamed Salah may return to Liverpool training this week according to Klopp, with hopes that he will feature in some capacity against the reigning champions next weekend.

That means that he will be preserved even if fit this Thursday, with young Kaide Gordon potentially earning some minutes on the right wing. Elliott and Bradley could also feature on that flank against Sparta.

Luis Diaz is another high-profile name that could be rested, but his experience and relentless work rate means he may well start against Sparta - perhaps being withdrawn at the hour mark.

If the Colombian is given the night off, then young Lewis Koumas, who scored on his debut against Southampton in the FA Cup last midweek, could feature.

Jayden Danns scored a brace against the Saints and came off the bench against Forest, and he may potentially get another run out in the Czech Republic.

PREDICTED LIVERPOOL STARTING XI AGAINST SPARTA PRAGUE

(4-3-3): Kelleher; Gomez, Konate, Quansah, Tsimikas; Mac Allister, McConnell, Clark; Gordon, Gakpo, Diaz. 

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