Depending on your source of opinion, Liverpool are either right where they’re supposed to be, or in deep, deep trouble. The Reds have only lost twice since March, averaging the equivalent of 2.25 points per game in their last 16 matches, but they are also on a streak of three straight games without a win. Their offense is one of the most dynamic in European football, notching 17 goals in eight games, but their defense have contrived to concede 14 in that same timeframe. And — as is ever the case — their manager is either the best choice for the club, or a total fraud who will soon be exposed.
It’s complicated — nuanced, even — is what we’re driving at, and it’s about to get more so with the introduction of the season’s third competition, as Liverpool enter the
League EFL Coca Cola Mickey Mouse Carabao Cup in its third round. Six games in 18 days across three competitions looks set to present a challenge to the squad depth and rotational philosophy of Jürgen Klopp, and consecutive trips to Leicester City are up next.
The Foxes — just 16 months removed from claiming Premier League gold, remember — have had a dour start to the season, with one win, one draw, and three losses from their opening five. No game has been decided by more than two goals. They arrive in the third round having quite resoundly thumped Championship promotion candidates Sheffield United 4-1, however, and might fancy their chances to make waves in the EFL Cup this year.
Jamie Vardy is predictably their top scorer, and Riyad Mahrez their top creator. Harry Maguire has successfully replaced Robert Huth at the heart of their defense, while new-boy Kelechi Iheanacho has featured only sporadically. The newly arrived €37m duo Vicente Iborra and Adrien Silva are missing through hamstring injury and 14-second transfer delay, respectively.
In conclusion, manager Craig Shakespeare has limited options in central midfield following the sale of Danny Drinkwater, and it appears likely two of Onyinye Ndidi, Matty James, and Andy King will start against Liverpool on Tuesday.
For Liverpool (4-3-3):
Ward; Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Milner; Woodburn, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain
It is a quick turnaround following their Anfield draw with Burnley on Saturday, and one would expect Klopp to rotate his squad heavily for what is, arguably, the least compelling fixture of the year. Danny Ward has already been confirmed to start, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke are expected to feature. Joe Gomez sat out the Burnley match and might allow Trent Alexander-Arnold a rest, assuming he’s not required to fill in centrally.
Returns for Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum seem likely, whilst Ben Woodburn — he of Wales debut superstardom — probably gets his first start of the season.
It’s not a side that screams creativity! and verve! but hopefully it will be disciplined enough and provide sufficient quality to repeat their success from pre-season — when the Reds won 2-1 — put Leicester to the sword, and secure advancement in the competition.
Kickoff is set for 7.45PM BST/ 2:45PM EST tomorrow on Sky Sports Football in the UK and ESPN 3 in the US. Elsewhere, DAZN in Canada, and Kwesé Free Sports in Kenya and Nigeria are carrying the match. You can find full listings at LivesoccerTV.
We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.