Jurgen Klopp is faced with a couple of selection dilemmas ahead of Liverpool’s Europa League semi-final first leg at Villarreal, not least the identity of Mamadou Sakho’s replacement at centre-half.
Sakho is awaiting punishment for failing a UEFA drugs test taken after the last-16 second-leg against Manchester United and will not feature again this season as a result.
When news of the positive test broke last week and Sakho was made unavailable for selection, Klopp opted to install veteran centre-half Kolo Toure in alongside the Frenchman’s regular partner Dejan Lovren for the visit of Newcastle.
Although the 35-year-old Ivorian lasted the 90 minutes, he played his part in allowing the Magpies back into the match with two second-half goals.
Toure is rarely trusted to start successive games, especially in such close proximity, so Klopp may be tempted to recall Martin Skrtel to the fold for the Thursday night outing.
The long-term Red last started a game at home to Stoke (5 games ago) and although the Slovakian international has incurred his fair share of injury trouble this season, recent murmurings from his camp reveal a player whose stock has fallen under the German.
Skrtel is a full-throttle, committed defender but he’s prone to mistakes and rumours abound that Klopp is ready to let the 31-year-old seek new pastures in the summer.
With question marks hovering over both potential fillers of Sakho’s vacated spot, arguably the most sensible option is to employ defensive-midfield lynchpin, turned-impressive centre-half convert, Lucas.
The current longest-serving Liverpool player has proven very adept when stepping back into the breach, best illustrated in the Capital One Cup final when the Brazilian stood out in the role up against Sergio Aguero.
Lucas has always been astute from a positional perspective and his natural reading of the game helps him to make interceptions at opportune moments when the play is all in front of him.
The 29-year-old is always willing to put in a shift for his teammates and with bags of European experience under his belt, he would be the perfect complement to Lovren’s more aggressive style, winning the majority of aerial duels.
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