Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes his side can reap additional benefit from having Alexis Mac Allister as a makeshift holding midfielder.
The Reds boss was dismissive of the suggestion the Argentina international, who usually plays further forward, faces the biggest test of his adaptation into a new role at Manchester City on Saturday.
Mac Allister, who joined for £35million from Brighton, has coped well so far filling a hole in a newly-formed midfield with fellow summer signing Wataru Endo, a genuine number six, only entrusted with two Premier League starts, but the prospect of facing Pep Guardiola’s side on their own turf is an entirely different prospect.
The 24-year-old’s poorest performances in the role have come away from home – at Wolves, where he was replaced at half-time after returning from international duty in South America, Newcastle and his former club – but that is not a concern for Klopp at this moment in time.
When asked whether this will Mac Allister’s biggest test, Klopp replied “No.
“I understand that from the outside world it is always about how is a player in this position. but in the end it is all about how the whole team is set up.
“Is Macca a natural-born six? No. Did football develop in the last years in directions we couldn’t imagine before? Yes. Does that mean that a player like Macca can play the six. Definitely.
“It depends on how the whole team defends. Easy as that. If we do that properly then we have an incredible player in a central position who can find passes, a forward-thinking player.
“Do you want a player there who is just knocking players down and when we are in possession he thinks ‘not my job, give me a break’?
“I like him there a lot to be honest and we as a team can benefit a lot from it if we make sure we have a really compact formation and that’s what we especially need tomorrow.”
The top-of-the-table clash is being billed as the biggest game of the season as Klopp’s side have emerged from a summer midfield rebuild to become City’s main challengers, sitting just a point behind the leaders despite their fifth-place finish in May.
But the Liverpool manager insists it should not be used to gauge comparisons with the Premier League champions.
“It is not a test how close can we get to City, it is just a super-exciting football game,” he added.
“But for us it is not about being excited, we have to prepare it properly and we know we have to be at our best to get a chance. We have that then it is about us to take it.
“A lot of things can happen: can we play bad, lose? Possible. Can we play bad and win? I would say it is unlikely, it’s pretty much not possible against City. We can play very good and don’t win, it’s possible. We play very good and win.
“This team doesn’t have to pass a test now, the direction we are going – up – is really the right one, that is obvious.
“Toulouse (a 4-3 Europa League defeat) we were not good there. I made a lot of changes so it goes on my responsibility, but still no good. Against Luton (a 1-1 draw), we were not good and if we had won the game, we were not good that night.
“But in a lot of games this season we were good and deserved what we we got.”