Liverpool are set to submit their Champions League squad for the knockout stage and decisions have to be made.
Jurgen Klopp will be forced to axe two players from Liverpool’s Champions League squad by tonight.
The Reds will soon return to action in Europe’s elite club competition when they face Real Madrid in the last 16. The first leg takes place at Anfield on Tuesday 21 February before travelling to the Santiago Bernabeau for the return clash on Wednesday 15 March.
The Champions League is now the only piece of silverware the Reds can win this season. Their stuttering form means they sit ninth in the Premier League table, while they’re out of the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup.
In fact, claiming the European Cup for the seventh time in the club’s history may be their only route into next campaign’s competition. Liverpool are 10 points outside of the top four as things stand.
Certainly, Klopp’s side could have been handed an easier draw in the first knockout stage. Real, of course, are the current holders after defeating the Reds 1-0 in Paris last May.
Liverpool’s chief focus this week will be preparing for the trip to Wolves this weekend.
But by 24:00 CET, or 23.00 in the UK, Klopp will have had to submit his squad for the remainder of the Reds’ Champions League campaign.
Liverpool were limited to a 24-man List A squad for the group stage rather than the full quota of 25 players because they fell short of UEFA homegrown rules. That remains the case and it means there are some tough choices to make.
Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did not make the cut due to long-term injuries. But both are now back fit, with the former starting the past three games. The pair are set to be reinstated.
Cody Gakpo will also be named in the squad after his £37 million arrival from PSV Eindhoven at the start of the January transfer window.
Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott will be named in List B as they were both born after 1 January 2001 and have been ‘eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA – or for a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period not longer than one year’.
For those reasons, Fabio Carvalho does not qualify despite being aged 20 after he arrived last summer from Fulham. However, Stefan Bajcetic will now be included in List B as it’s been two years since he joined Liverpool from Celta Vigo. The midfielder was previously on List A.
But Klopp will still have to omit two players. And it appears between Calvin Ramsay, Nat Phillips and Arthur Melo.
In truth, Ramsay looks highly likely to be left out. He’s made just two appearances since arriving from Aberdeen last summer, with his debut coming against Rangers in the Champions League.
The right-back has struggled with various injuries and hasn’t been included in the past eight match-day squads. On Wednesday night, Ramsay scored for the under-21s in a 3-2 loss to Hertha Berlin in the Premier League International Cup.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is first-choice on the right-hand side of defence while James Milner and Joe Gomez have deputised this season,
Klopp then has somewhat of a dilemma to pick between Phillips and Arthur. Phillips could well have departed Anfield on January transfer deadline day before it emerged that Ibrahima Konate had suffered a hamstring injury. While the former Bolton centre-back craves regular football, he yet again had to be kept on Merseyside to provide defensive cover.
Van Dijk and Konate are both sidelined for what’s expected to be the next couple of weeks. The latter may not be available for the Real Madrid game. Therefore, Liverpool may not tak a risk at opt to register Phillips.
Arthur is yet to return to full training, having played just 12 minutes of football since arriving on loan from Juventus. He suffered a hammer blow when suffering a thigh injury that required surgery in October and has been unavailable since.
Arthur is a week or two away from returning to full training. However, Liverpool currently have a clean bill of health in midfield – so he is likely to miss out.