Liverpool handed defensive dilemma as forward’s form a big worry ahead of Champions League final

A look at Liverpool’s current squad ahead of the Champions League final against Real Madrid.

Liverpool must cast aside their disappointment of missing out on the Premier League title as they prepare to finish the season in the best way possible.

The Reds get ready for their third Champions League final in five years against Real Madrid in Paris.

Jurgen Klopp's men are not only aiming for a seventh European Cup in the club's history - and a second under the German - but revenge.

It was Madrid who defeated Liverpool 3-1 in Kyiv in the 2018 showpiece.

The Reds would go on to claim the silverware the following year with a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid.

Klopp will be hoping for an uninterrupted week of training after signing off the Premier League season with a 3-1 victory over Wolves to finish second in the table.

Here, we take an early look at the current situation of Liverpool's squad heading into the game.

Goalkeeper and defence

Alisson Becker put in an immense performance against Wolves.

His save from Hwang Hee-chan, in particular, stood out in the first half as he shared the Golden Glove award along with Man City’s Ederson with 20 clean sheets.

Alisson, who was brought in off the back of Loris Karius’ disastrous performance in the 2018 defeat to Real, is a certainty to start.

As are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson in respective full-back roles.

Alexander-Arnold has enjoyed arguably his finest season to date with two goals and 19 assists, while Robertson has created 15 and scored three times - his latest against Wolves.

But it’s central defence that causes the most problems.

Virgil van Dijk was only able to feature on the bench on Sunday after suffering a knee issue in the FA Cup final defeat of Chelsea.

He did train with his team-mates before the game, though, and Klopp was likely erring on the side of caution when it comes to the Dutchman’s fitness.

But who starts alongside van Dijk is the question.

Virgil van Dijk in Liverpool training. Picture: Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Ibrahima Konate has been van Dijk’s primary partner in the Champions League this season, starting five of the past six games.

The Frenchman has enjoyed a fine maiden season at Anfield since arriving for £36 million from RB Leipzig last summer. Whenever Konate has played, Liverpool are unbeaten - a remarkable stat.

But Konate made his first real error against Wolves when he misjudged Jose Sa’s goal kick, with Pedro Neto subsequently giving the visitors the lead.

Klopp has to decide whether to stay loyal to Konate, 22, or opt for the experience of Joel Matip.

The 30-year-old featured in the 2019 final against Spurs so will be able to handle the occasion.

Midfield

The disappointment around Anfield was rife as Thiago Alcantara made his way down the tunnel moments before half-time against Wolves.

He was one of the main players who supporters would have prayed to come through the game unscathed given his previous injury issues and ability.

Scans show that Thiago’s Achilles injury isn’t too serious, although the Reds are sweating on his fitness.

Thiago Alcantara came off injured in Liverpool’s defeat of Wolves. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

That will be a blow if he is unavailable - especially if Fabinho can also not play.

The Brazil international has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, but Klopp has been confident Fabinho will be back for Paris.

Jordan Henderson has been providing the screen in front of the defence in Fabinho’s absence.

The Liverpool skipper will be desperate to lift a second Champions League aloft.

If Thiago is absent, Henderson is a nye-on certainty to start alongside Naby Keita.

But if Thiago and Fabinho both get the green light, Klopp will have to choose between his captain and Keita for the other berth.

James Milner was the man who replaced Thiago against Wolves. The veteran 36-year-old may start if the Spaniard and Fabinho cannot play, while Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are options.

Up front

Mo Salah handed Liverpool a huge boost by coming off the bench to net the match-winner against Wolves.

The Egypt international limped off in the first half of the FA Cup final victory with a groin complaint and missed the win at Southampton.

In truth, Klopp has a straightforward decision to replace Salah with Diogo Jota.

The Portuguese has bagged 21 goals in all competitions this term, although his form has worryingly jettisoned of late.

Jota has scored in his past 12 games and an arduous season of 60 appearances for club and country may have caught up with him.

Diogo Jota in action for Liverpool against Wolves. Picture: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face a different Sadio Mane than they’ve encountered in recent meetings.

The Senegal international is no longer a left-winger but a centre-forward whose strike against Wolves was his ninth in 13 appearances.

Los Blancos will also encounter the raw attributes of Luis Diaz for the first time.

The Colombian has made a scintillating impact since arriving from Porto in January.

Roberto Firmino also shouldn’t be forgotten, but cult hero Divock Origi has been ruled out with a muscle injury.

That paves the way for a place on the bench for Takumi Minamino.