Liverpool set for new look in Merseyside derby as Mane preferred to Salah

Jurgen Klopp may now be describing it as a "useful" result, but there have been plenty of other choice words shared among Liverpool fans since the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa.

The strange, almost other-worldly feel to that game still seems to linger when you look back at it, and Klopp's fairly calm demeanour both in the immediate aftermath and now, when thoughts are turning back to club action, seems to underline the sheer oddness of it.

But there has been a long-held belief about Liverpool under Klopp that when things go wrong, they can go spectacularly wrong, and the only way to ensure that doesn't happen is to simply be as disciplined as they have been for the past few years.

Especially in the big games.

Take Klopp's treatment of the Goodison Park Merseyside derby, which has long been a bugbear for Reds supporters.

The German clearly sees the hop across Stanley Park as one of Liverpool's big games, and as such there has been just one goal in his four visits there, which was scored by Sadio Mane in the 94th minute on his first trip.

Each of the last three visits have been goalless, although only really the middle one did any lasting damage and was treated with a sense of regret.

Klopp made some interesting substitutions in March 2019, on what proved to be the last occasion either of the top two dropped points that season, tellingly.

The 2018 trip came in between the two legs of the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City, and this June the game served as both Liverpool and Everton's first competitive football for over three months. And it showed.

Klopp's sense of respect for the opposition and desire to control those games, and indeed the Anfield derbies, have often led to him picking slightly odd, sometimes much-changed sides, something that becomes most apparent when you look at his forward line.

Because in the eight Merseyside derbies that the German has contested since Mohamed Salah completed his now famed front three in 2017, it is quite remarkable that none of them have featured Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah all starting together in their usual positions.

In fact just one of the eight featured the trio all together in the starting XI, but that came in December 2018 when Xherdan Shaqiri also played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Divock Origi coming off the bench to score his famed late winner via the crossbar and Jordan Pickford.

Will that change this weekend though?

Saturday is set to be just Salah's second derby game at Goodison Park, and the Egyptian will be fresh having not had any international duty to report for over the past two weeks.

Mane, too, will be raring to go after his coronavirus self-isolation ended, meaning that Firmino will be the only real question mark.

The Brazilian was woeful in the Villa loss, and has been travelling away with Brazil over the past two weeks which could bring an element of fatigue.

He did however bag a couple of goals, and it seems more than likely that Klopp will turn to him from the start, however much Diogo Jota's brace for Portugal on Wednesday would have pleased him.

Firmino's presence can often inspire Salah and Mane, after all, and although it now seems long-forgotten, the Egyptian did manage to distract himself from the chaos at the other end to bag a brace at Villa. He looks in remarkable form.

Ex-Reds midfielder Danny Murphy agrees, telling the Football Index Podcast that: "I think Salah will be the top scorer and win the Golden Boot this season.

"Straight away from his first couple of performances I thought he has started the season on fire. He looks hungry, he looks fit, fresh and ready to go."

Interestingly though, it is Mane who Murphy considers to be more important than Salah.

When asked who he'd keep at the club if he could only keep one of them, he said: "I would choose Mane over Salah.

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"Salah is more productive in terms of goals, but Mane epitomises what Liverpool teams are all about with his game and his atttiude.

"I think Mane was Liverpool's best player last season, and if I had to prioritise keeping one over the other, I would keep Mane."

Luckily for Liverpool they still don't have to make that choice, but at a time when Everton are showing the type of form and performances which would merit Klopp's usual caution when visiting Goodison, they could be set to show a new derby look which is more in keeping with how they usually appear.

Salah, Mane and Firmino could all be unleashed from the start, and that would give the hosts something they haven't experienced in a derby before.

Two weeks on from their collective experience at Villa, Liverpool will need this one to go well to ensure that nagging doubt doesn't creep in, and obviously to avoid the bragging rights going to the neighbours.

Getting the front three band back together for a rare derby appearance would be a good start.

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