5 Talking Points: Fulham vs Liverpool

Liverpool will visit Craven Cottage on Sunday for a Premier League encounter against a struggling Fulham side. Scott Parker will have a fully fit squad to pick from; Jurgen Klopp will be hoping to have the likes of Alisson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain return from their injuries.


Here are some of the key talking points:



1. Again, why did Klopp feature his key players in midweek?


Jota in champions league for liverpool
Image Source: The Liverpool Offside

It is no secret that the German manager is unhappy with the scheduling and congested fixture list his team has to deal with this season. So it was surprising to see the likes of Mo Salah (who lasted the entire game), Fabinho and Diogo Jota feature in the midweek dead-rubber match against Midtjylland.



The Reds have been decimated by injuries this season and with Jota the latest casualty having picked up a knee injury during the last match, questions have to be asked about Klopp's decision. With Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi struggling to make an impact this season, the loss of the Portuguese forward who has been firing on all cylinders will be sorely felt.


2. Return of the Ox and Alisson


oxlade-chamberlain in training for liverpool
Image Source: The State

At least some positive news on the injury front, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alisson are set to provide options for Klopp after the duo returned to full training. Young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher has deputised expertly for the last few games, but it is the return of the Ox that will excite Liverpool fans.


The English midfielder's timely return will provide much-needed cover for the Reds, with his versatility meaning that he can play in a more advanced position — potentially playing in a role that Jota occupies.


With a tricky fixture against title contenders Tottenham Hotspur just around the corner, Sunday's encounter against the Cottagers could be the perfect opportunity for Oxlade-Chamberlain to clock some minutes and kickstart his season.


3. It is time for Sadio Mane to score


Sadio mane celebrating a goal
Image Source: CGTN

The Senegalese forward remains one of the best players in the league this season, netting four league goals so far this campaign. But it has since been six league matches that Mane had found the net after his exploits against Everton, although he did score in the Champions League.


The mini drought might not be affecting his overall contribution to the team, but he does seem to lack that usual bit of confidence in front of goal in recent weeks.



A goal against Fulham will be very much welcome, and who would dare bet against it?


4. The Reds must win the midfield battle


Anguissa vs watford
Image Source: Sky Sports

Fulham does seem like one of those teams who are playing better than their league position suggests (remember Norwich City from the last campaign?) and are appearing to be slowly implementing their style of play in recent weeks.


Their defence remains the biggest problem, leaking in 21 goals so far. The key to Sunday's game can possibly lie in the midfield area, with Fulham boasting quality in that department. The likes of Tom Cairney, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa are capable of causing any team problems, while the Reds have several notable absentees to deal with — Thiago Alcantara, Xherdan Shaqiri and James Milner are all ruled out.


Cameroon midfielder Anguissa, in particular, looks to be one of Fulham's key threat — he combines excellent physical strength with his technical ability superbly to help drive Fulham forward on numerous occasions this season.


Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum should be back in the starting eleven and will have the required nous and experience to edge the midfield battle, while it will be interesting to see either Naby Keita or Curtis Jones step up to the challenge.


5. Fabinho and Matip partnership set to grow


Matip and Fabinho in training at Melwood
Image Source: Liverpool FC

One will struggle to believe if you had told him that Fabinho and Joel Matip would be the regulars at the heart of the defence with only about a quarter of the season played.


With Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez set to sit out for the most part of the season, the unlikely pair of Matip and Fabinho has been looking solid thus far. The versatile Brazilian has stepped into defence seamlessly all throughout his career; the lanky and slightly awkward Matip is one of the best defenders in the league when he remains fit.


The pair do lack the pace that van Dijk and Gomez possess and could struggle against quicker, niftier forwards, but their tackling and reading of the game are proving to be major assets for the team.


An unlikely combination, but one that looks set to blossom in coming weeks.


Score Prediction: Fulham 1-3 Liverpool


 

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