Liverpool starting lineup to face Sparta Prague – predicted

After more than a few breathless encounters and high-stakes drama recently, it's almost nice going into the Europa League last 16 second leg, knowing it'll likely be quite boring.

The Reds ran out 5-1 winners against Sparta Prague in the away leg last week, making the return at Anfield feel like little more than a formality.

Never say never of course, but unless something absolutely historic happens, Liverpool will be in the quarter final draw this Friday.

Given the four-goal cushion, Jurgen Klopp has the peace of mind to be able to rest players for this one, ahead of the FA Cup quarter final away at Manchester United just three days later.

The only problem is, with as many as ten first teamers still out injured, rotating the squad is easier said than done.

Here's how Liverpool could line up to face Sparta at Anfield on Thursday night.


Goalkeeper & Defence

Joe Gomez

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v Luton Town FC LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 21, 2024: Liverpool s Joe Gomez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Luton Town FC at Anfield. Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda LIVERPOOL Anfield MERSEYSIDE ENGLAND

Caoimhin Kelleher should start his ninth consecutive Liverpool game, with Alisson still sidelined.

There is a small chance that Adrian could earn a first appearance of the season here, with the tie already all but wrapped up, though it seems unlikely, with Kelleher a low risk for an injury in goal. Famous last words.

Conor Bradley, who scored Sparta's only goal in the first leg, should continue his role at right back in what is likely to be a rotated backline.

Joe Gomez is set to start but the only question is where? The Englishman could get a rare outing in the centre alongside Jarell Quansah, in order to give some rest time to captain Virgil van Dijk. If that's the case, expect to see Kostas Tsimikas come in at left back.

Ibrahima Konate, who picked up a knock in the first leg, will surely not feature.

Midfield

Sparta Prague v Liverpool Europa League 07/03/2024. Round of 16 Harvey Elliott 19 of Liverpool during the Europa League Round of 16 match between Sparta Prague and Liverpool at epet ARENA, Prague, Czech Republic on 7 March 2024. Editorial use only , Copyright: xNigelxKeenex PSI-19187-0102

Harvey Elliott, who bagged a hat-trick of assists in the first leg could continue his role in the midfield three, with Dominik Szoboszlai — still being eased back after injury — unlikely to be risked.

Alexis Mac Allister too might be in line for a rest, while rising star Bobby Clark could make his first ever European start.

Wataru Endo may be used from the beginning to provide some ballast to the midfield, but would be unlikely to play the whole game, considering he is a probable starter for Sunday's FA Cup clash at United.

With Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara, Stefan Bajcetic and Ryan Gravenberch all still injured, the option for major rotation is not as possible as Klopp may like in this situation. However, James McConnell is another young star who could be called on. Gomez could also be brought higher up the pitch to play the 'number six' role once again.

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

Having taken care not to rush back the likes of Mohamed Salah — who still hasn't started a Liverpool game since New Year's Day — and Darwin Nunez after injury, it would be the definition of madness to throw them both on for the second leg of a 99% already settled tie, ahead of a key clash against a major rival three days later.

Luis Diaz has played a lot of football recently and has been a real trooper for the Reds amid the injury crisis. He ought to be rested here too.

With Diogo Jota still out, that leaves Cody Gakpo and the kids.

Teenagers Lewis Koumas and Kaide Gordon could be the ones to start, though Jayden Danns is another option, assuming he has recovered from the concussion he suffered in the win over Nottingham Forest.

20-year-old Polish starlet Mateusz Musialowski made the bench for the first leg and could also be an option. Having joined Liverpool in 2020, the man once described as the 'Polish Messi' is yet to make his first-team debut.

Predicted Liverpool starting XI vs Sparta Prague:

(4-3-3): Kelleher; Bradley, Gomez, Quansah, Tsimikas; Elliott, Endo, Clark; Gordon, Gakpo, Koumas

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