After being crowned Premier League champions thanks to Manchester City’s defeat against Chelsea last week, Liverpool head into Thursday night’s clash against Pep Guardiola’s side knowing that the remaining few weeks of the season will be one long victory parade.
Guardiola himself has already said that Jurgen Klopp’s men will receive a guard of honour at the Etihad, and the game itself certainly won’t have the same intensity as it potentially could have had the title not been sewn up already.
Despite that, the Reds will feel they can send a real statement of intent about just how incredible their season has been by beating the dethroned champions in their own backyard.
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And with it, Klopp will have some selection headaches ahead of the game, particularly given that he doesn’t have major injury concerns to contend with.
Whilst the Reds dismantled Crystal Palace 4-0 at Anfield last time out, Klopp must seriously consider throwing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the fray on Thursday evening.
The former Gunners man has been in and out of the Liverpool side this season, making just 23 appearances in the Premier League. But his previous record against City, and the style of player that he is, means he could be absolutely perfect to help the Merseyside club come away from Manchester with all three points.
In his seven total appearances against the Citizens, Oxlade-Chamberlain has delivered four goal contributions (two goals and two assists). One of those strikes of course was that absolute thunderbolt in the Champions League at Anfield, and it’s the kind of psychological edge that will surely get him amped up for the game.
Who should start tonight?
Klopp will have seen City’s defeat against Chelsea, and noted how the Blues had major success on the counter-attack with quick, vertical passing and direct running – Christian Pulisic’s strike matched that to an absolute tee. Oxlade-Chamberlain meanwhile has some of those same attributes, but can do so from the centre of the park.
His former teammate at Arsenal, Aaron Ramsey, remarked a couple of years ago about how he “is a big threat going forward”, and that “he’s very explosive and quick off the mark, he can go past players with ease and his final ball in has been very good”.
Naturally a winger but able to play in the middle, Oxlade-Chamberlain could wreak havoc against City once again by being used in that midfield three alongside Jordan Henderson and Fabinho and offering Liverpool the pace to counter quickly.
It’s a big call, but the England international could be the kind of game-changer that swings things in the Reds’ favour.