It was a brave call from Jurgen Klopp before the return of Champions League football to Anfield even kicked off. Paris Saint-Germain were in town with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and others in tow and the German decided to drop marquee summer arrival Naby Keita in favour of captain Jordan Henderson.
In the early weeks of the campaign, it has been clear that Klopp is keen to rotate his team, with Keita having been dropped against Leicester City before the international break and then coming back to face Tottenham.
Against PSG, he opted for Henderson, who completed 90 minutes of action for the first time this season. It was a safe move, picking a leader who knows his team-mates well and knows the way that the midfield trio works alongside James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum.
“We played a midfield who played a lot of times last season together, that was the reason for that tonight, it was clear that Hendo would come back and what a brilliant performance of him. Physical-wise, so good, because obviously as we know that the players after the World Cup normally struggle a bit… he is ready now and that’s really important for us.”
The ex-Sunderland man proved that the coach made the correct decision too. He made more interceptions than anyone with six and created two separate attacking chances, showing his all round contribution despite primarily occupying the holding role.
Spending much of the time tracking the likes of Neymar, Henderson did not allow any of the PSG attackers an inch of space. From the first whistle to the last, his pressing was impressive and showed just why Klopp so often resorts back to him.
Keita is a player of undoubted quality, but he is still learning the ropes. Younger and less experienced, he lacks the calming influence that Henderson can offer at present, though his chances will come and Klopp is clearly keen to build him up gradually.
Henderson has a track record of turning up for the big fixtures and few are bigger than this one. His display showed as much, and it was a superb tactical decision from his coach to select him from the start.