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James Milner's form a concern for Liverpool amid delight with Klopp

Liverpool's performance in their superb 3-1 win away at Chelsea on Saturday was rewarded with high player ratings almost across the board.

There were plenty of standout performers, and a few, including manager Jurgen Klopp, took their place in ESPN FC's Team of the Weekend. Yet amid the positivity came a consensus that the one below-par performer at Stamford Bridge was captain James Milner.

Acquiring an England international for free in the summer was widely applauded as good business by the club -- for once. Professionalism had been seen as one of the squad's failings, and somebody like Milner was expected to make that right.

However, Klopp found himself having to replace Milner at Stamford Bridge in order to try to win an important match. Few batted an eyelid as he did so.

It's not that Milner has played especially badly since the German's arrival in October; there's just been something curiously static about the player. Milner seemed to be in the way at Stamford Bridge rather than contributing meaningfully, enforcing the notion that he does not appreciate a return to the wing under Klopp.

Few would have predicted Milner might be under any threat following Klopp's arrival, but changing from his favoured central position out to the right suggests the former Manchester City man has yet to convince his new boss.

Milner thought he joined Liverpool for more regular appearances and a crack at central midfield, where he felt he could perform at his best. The immediate move back to the wing must have come as a shock.

To his credit, he is not sulking at playing in a position he doesn't want to be in. Instead, he is being a consummate professional, sacrificing himself for the sake of a new manager. Klopp is using what has become a depleted squad and doing what's best for the team while he gets used to his new surroundings.

All well and good, but Saturday's decision to bring on Christian Benteke for Milner and its subsequent success gives Klopp more food for thought. Usually, the player coming off would have been Adam Lallana, but the former Southampton man has a new lease of life under Klopp.

Philippe Coutinho might have come off, too, had he not rediscovered the form that got him shortlisted for last season's Premier League Player of the Year, scoring two fine goals to put his side in charge of the match.

No, it had to be Milner. Bringing on Benteke gave everyone watching a sense that Liverpool thought victory was there for the taking, and so it proved.

There were further concerns for the Englishman when Jordon Ibe came on for Roberto Firmino and proved a real handful for a Chelsea back four that was admittedly feeling a little sorry for itself after Coutinho made it 2-1. Ibe also performed well against Bournemouth on Wednesday in a 1-0 Capital One Cup win, although he's been frustrating this season.

It might be presumptuous to assume that getting the better of a makeshift Bournemouth and a bedraggled, grumbling Chelsea meant he was back to his best and ready to take Milner's place. It's all good for Klopp, though. The more players he has banging on his door for a first-team start the better, especially given the physical weakness of his available strikers at the moment.

The defeat of Chelsea should be put into perspective, though. They are on an awful run at the moment, with the manager reportedly two matches from losing his job and rumours of dressing room unrest.

Chelsea also played two gruelling hours against Stoke in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday before being eliminated on penalties while a second-string Liverpool side eased to victory over Bournemouth. If Klopp had lost Lucas to a red card after an hour of Saturday's game, the result could have been very different. Chelsea and Mourinho are presumably still furious that referee Mark Clattenburg failed to give the Brazilian a second yellow for a trip on Ramires.

That said, Liverpool looked a completely different team once the ball began hitting the back of the net. It may be simplistic to say all that has been missing is goals, but they certainly help.

Meanwhile, Klopp will have seen problems other than Milner despite the win. Emre Can and Alberto Moreno's decision-making left a little to be desired, but the manager may feel youth is on their side and their energy can compensate for some current roughness around the edges.

Milner has stuck to his task diligently during these trying months. Being dropped would be a cruel reward for that, but you get the sense, as with any great manager, that seniority and previous excellence count for nothing when the good of the team is at stake.

The England man is due a good performance. This week may be a good time to deliver it.