Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 9.
Liverpool’s line-up has pretty much picked itself for the last two seasons, but injuries are now forcing Jurgen Klopp to make difficult decisions in defence which could affect his entire game plan against Leicester City.
That is far from ideal against a Leicester side who have won all four of their away matches, scoring 13 goals in the process.
Phillips, 23, impressed on loan at Stuttgart last term and was superb in Liverpool’s 2-1 home win over West Ham United.
He made nine clearances and dominated in the air on his Premier League debut, keeping Hammers striker Sebastien Haller in check.
Need for speed
While Vardy clearly offers a very different type of threat to Haller, Phillips has an excellent turn of pace.
Against West Ham, he registered the third-highest top speed by a Liverpool player this season, which statistically makes him the club’s quickest centre-back.
That factor could earn him the nod against Leicester.
Liverpool top speeds 2020/21
|Rank||Player||Speed (km/h)||Rank||Player||Speed (km/h)|
Fabinho was excellent as a centre-back at Chelsea in September.
Because of his experience as a deep-lying midfielder, he is rarely flustered and his distribution is tremendous.
In the 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, the Brazilian made 90 passes with an accuracy of 96.7 per cent.
When Leicester close down Liverpool’s defenders, Fabinho can be trusted not to lose possession in a bad area.
However, he is not especially fast, with a top speed this term of 30.87 km/h.
If he plays alongside Matip, who has peaked at 30.8 km/h this season, Liverpool will be nervous about the speed of Vardy and Harvey Barnes.
Should Klopp opt for a Fabinho-Matip partnership, he will probably have to change his normal strategy.
If Liverpool pressed in their usual manner, keeping a high line, Leicester could tear them apart by playing balls in behind from transitions.
Instead, the champions would need to drop deeper and apply pressure from a lower block.
Liverpool’s full-backs would also potentially have to play less adventurously to avoid leaving holes down the sides of their exposed centre-backs.
There are pros and cons to picking Phillips or Fabinho in his makeshift rearguard, so Klopp’s final decision will be based around the tactical plan he prefers for this fixture.