Jürgen Klopp admits the return of Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino to fitness has buoyed Liverpool – and will give him plenty to think about in terms of setting up his team against Southampton this weekend.
The pair both came off the bench in the second half of the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Rubin Kazan on Thursday night to make their first appearances since September.
It meant Klopp was able to deploy two central strikers as Liverpool went in search of a winner, with Benteke first coming on to partner Divock Origi before Firmino joined him in attack when he replaced the Belgian.
“Of course, it is an option,” the boss told his pre-Southampton press conference when asked if we could expect to see the Reds fielding a pair of forwards up front in the coming weeks.
“If all the strikers are fit then we have four and we have to think about how we can put their quality into our game. It is possible we can play like this, but I don’t know at this moment if we will play on Sunday with two strikers – but it is an option for the future.
“Christian and Roberto had two training sessions with the team [before Thursday] and usually that is too early to bring them into a situation where you need them, but they did well. They were not at the best level they can play, but they did well. Now we are a step further [forward] with them.
“Christian was unlucky when he hit the post and Roberto got better and better in the game – the first two situations were not so good, but then he was in.
“They are two new options – very important options – for Sunday.”
Benteke and Firmino back in contention significantly bolsters Liverpool’s forward options, with Daniel Sturridge also due to return once he’s recovered from a knee injury.
Klopp has no doubt any two of his striking choices are capable of operating in tandem, but was eager to stress the importance of striking a balance within the team.
He explained: “All good players can play together. It depends on how they work for the team. We cannot play with two or three offensive players who only stay in front and we defend with seven.
“You can do this if you are a world-class team with the best strikers – Barcelona can leave them [up front] because they have perfect counter-pressing and ball stealing and then they can play them in. It’s not a bad idea!
“When they are fit, that’s when I have to start thinking about this because in this short time between games, it’s really difficult to think about a game in four weeks or something when they can play together.
“But for sure, they can play together – that is no problem. Then we will have to think about what we do with the rest of the team, but if they make five goals a game, we will find a way of defending without them! But they will defend and that’s not a problem. They can play together and it depends on them.”
That collective defending, Klopp insists, begins at the top of the field and the pressing and closing down of opposition rearguards.
The boss continued: “Isn’t it one of the oldest things you say in football – defending begins far away from your own goal?
“They don’t have to run with the centre-back to our box, but they have to close spaces so the rest [of the team] can defend easier. They have to find the right position to give the opponent the biggest problems they can.
“You cannot always run between, but you have to help the rest of the formation. That’s pretty normal and not the hardest job in the world, it’s really no big problem.
“If you do this in intelligent ways, then it is easier for the rest to defend and it is easier for you to get the ball back. All strikers have to defend – Cristiano Ronaldo has to defend in his way.”