Where will the fit-again Adam Lallana slot into Liverpool's line-up?
He has become the forgotten man of Jurgen Klopp’s army of attackers, but Adam Lallana is closing in on a first-team comeback at Liverpool following a frustrating spell on the treatment table.
The England international, who moved to Anfield from Southampton in 2014, suffered a thigh injury in pre-season that proved more troublesome than had been expected.
Lallana has yet to be named in a match-day squad this campaign but he has intensified his recovery behind the scenes and is now ready to step back into the spotlight.
The midfielder’s impending return only increases boss Klopp’s creative options. Liverpool have been at their free-scoring best recently, netting 16 goals in the five matches since they were thrashed by Tottenham Hotspur.
Exemplified by their collapse at Seville in the Champions League, where they surrendered a three-goal half-time advantage, Liverpool still have defensive issues – but there is no denying that on their day, the five-time European champions are irresistible to watch.
After a sticky start to life under the German, during which he was often a peripheral figure, Lallana was one of Liverpool’s stand-out performers last season in a team that finished fourth in the Premier League.
He scored eight goals in 31 appearances and was at the heart of the Reds’ resurgence.
The 29-year-old’s form also helped him to cement a place in the national team under Gareth Southgate and he won the England player of the year award for 2016 after scoring goals against Slovakia and Scotland in World Cup qualifying, plus another in a friendly with Spain.
With the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane and summer signing Mo Salah, who has been a revelation since joining from Roma, all providing guile, flair and a genuine goal threat, there are suggestions that Lallana will struggle to regain his place in the starting XI.
Certainly, Klopp has an embarrassment of riches to call upon when everyone is fit and he faces a challenge, albeit an enviable one, to piece together the puzzle.
Lallana’s greatest quality is his technical ability on the ball. He is equally adept with right or left foot, which makes him a nightmare proposition for defenders as he is so unpredictable.
As such, Lallana can operate in a number of positions throughout the pitch, anywhere from a deep-lying midfielder to an auxiliary striker.
This versatility, which Coutinho, Mane and Salah in particular also provide, is perfectly suited to Klopp’s trademark brand of football. When fully fit, Lallana can expect to find himself named alongside this triumvirate in a fluid formation – not at the expense of one of them.
The mouth-watering visit of reigning Premier League champions Chelsea to Anfield this weekend may come too soon for Lallana to make his first start of the campaign.
Having spent so long out of action, Klopp will not want to rush him back. However, the Liverpool manager has made no secret of his admiration for Lallana, whose return to the fold can only boost his side’s quest for honours. It will be like a new signing for Liverpool.
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