Who would make your dream Liverpool five-a-side team? Here, six of This is Anfield’s regular writers explain their selections from both past and present.
Five-a-side is a very different game to the traditional 11-a-side.
It is a test of fitness, finishing—the goalposts are generally tiny—and a willingness to do a stint in goal!
Many a conversation will have taken place regarding what Liverpool’s best possible five-a-side team is, whether it be past or present, so we have spent the international break doing exactly that.
This is Anfield regulars Matt Ladson (@mattladson), Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87), Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_), Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett), James Nalton (@JDNalton) and Chris Williams (@Chris78Williams) have all given their ideal lineups from those two categories—whose do you agree with most?Matt Ladson
Current: Alisson, Gomez, Keita, Firmino, Salah
Ball-playing goalkeepers and defenders are required, as is mobility, pace and non-stop running.
Past: Reina, Agger, Gerrard, Suarez, Fowler
Again, it’s a ball-playing ‘keeper and defender—I’m with a diamond shape in each of these.
Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez in the middle, with Robbie Fowler providing the finishing. That’ll do nicely.Henry Jackson
Current: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Keita, Firmino, Salah
It is a bold move by Ladson to go with Gomez over Van Dijk—I don’t think you need neither, with Trent Alexander-Arnold more than capable back there in this format.
They would all interchange well, too, which is essential.
Past: Reina, Mascherano, Barnes, Gerrard, Suarez
Pepe Reina would be great, despite going on the odd mad run like Monk—Jason Statham’s psychotic character in Mean Machine.
Javier Mascherano would mop up everything and John Barnes, Gerrard and Suarez would be unplayable together.
I was going to go with Philippe Coutinho, but there would be too many needless long shots that lead to the ball landing on a faraway roof!Jack Lusby
Current: Alisson, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Firmino, Sturridge
It’s a shame Alisson would be restricted to the ‘D’ because I think he’d do a decent job as an outfielder in five-a-side, but Van Dijk in front of him isn’t bad either.
Wijnaldum and Firmino are perfect players for this game, while Sturridge edges Salah as he remains the best finisher at the club.
Past: Reina, Agger, Gerrard, Coutinho, Suarez
Staying relatively recent, I’d agree with Matt on Reina and Agger at the back—I’m disappointed to leave Hyypia out but the great Dane was just a better ball-player.
Gerrard and Suarez are no-brainers, while I’d argue Coutinho is too given his creativity, finishing and ability to operate in tight spaces.Karl Matchett
Current: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Wijnaldum, Firmino, Salah
No need for beefy, bruising centre-backs in five-a-side, just get the ball down and play it quickly.
Three of the four outfielders will happily slot in for each other in defence, midfield or attack. Just let Salah stick up top and shoot!
Past: Reina, Agger, Garcia, Suarez, Fowler
Only difference to Matt’s team—Luis Garcia for Gerrard—gives me a technical edge in the fast-paced passing on a five-a-side pitch.
I reckon that means I beat him in a tense semi-final.James Nalton
Current: Alisson, Milner, Keita, Firmino, Salah
Two midfielders who can also defend and Firmino to attack, defend and do everything really. Salah to run rings around people in attack.
James Milner would really want to win, even though it’s only five-a-side.
Past: Dudek, Mascherano, Gerrard, Coutinho, Fowler
A smaller, agile ‘keeper for five-a-side nets, two determined all-rounders, a Brazilian guy who was brought up playing futsal and one natural finisher.Chris Williams
Current: Mignolet, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Firmino, Mane
Give the big Belgian a run-out for two reasons. Firstly, the goals are smaller so he will be more than capable, and secondly, he’s got the Dutch rock in front of him.
A Dutch, Brazilian and Senegalese street-footballing trio lead the midfield and attack. Salah just misses out—he’s a substitute.
Past: Grobbelaar, Hyypia, Dalglish, Gerrard, Suarez
European Cup winning goalkeeper, supported by four other players with a European Cup medal. Easy.
Two current and two ex-Reds were in action at the Amsterdam ArenA as the vacuous UEFA Nations League continued this weekend, with Ryan Babel and Emre Can also starting.
Van Dijk wore the captain’s armband for Ronald Koeman’s side, with the manager issuing a challenge before the game, explaining he felt the 27-year-old was “a little too laid-back.”
He certainly made a statement on the half-hour, but this came at the other end of the pitch, as he headed home the opener after Babel’s initial effort hit the bar.
This set up a back-and-forth game between the two sides, as Germany pushed for an equaliser and the hosts looked to extend their lead—with both Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay going close.
The former Man United winger eventually added a second in the closing stages, beating Manuel Neuer after some sloppy play in midfield.
And as full-time drew closer, Wijnaldum bamboozled Jerome Boateng, surged into the box and fired a low, powerful shot beyond Bayern Munich’s No. 1 to seal a 3-0 win.
The Netherlands moved to the top of their Nations League group while Germany dropped to bottom, having failed to score in three consecutive games for the first time in their storied history.
Both Van Dijk and Wijnaldum were praised on social media after the game, with the centre-back particularly impressive:
Virgil van Dijk imperious for Netherlands tonight
3 Aerials won
1 blocked shot
89.6% pass accuracy
What a leader! pic.twitter.com/tOwjzHCcxN
— Dutch Football (@FootballOranje_) October 13, 2018
Could watch De Ligt and Van Dijk defend the box and the channels all day. What a partnership, what a foundation #NED have. Plenty to like in Memphis’ performance up front too.
— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) October 13, 2018
Van Dijk – De Ligt, already a top three centre-back duo at national team level. Once you have that core, it's only natural that your team starts getting results.
— Tiago Estêvão (@TiagoEstv) October 13, 2018
Gini Wijnaldum has scored 10 goals for club and country since joining Liverpool. Not a massive haul, but not bad when you consider the keepers he’s beaten…
– Manuel Neuer
– Alisson Becker
– Thibault Courtois
– Petr Cech pic.twitter.com/b1XoVVcL26
— Alex Mansfield (@el_mansfield) October 13, 2018
What a night! Good 3-0 win against Germany?!!! Glad to be on the score sheet ?????? pic.twitter.com/MfS4l7KTVJ
— Georginio Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) October 13, 2018
Speaking before the game, Van Dijk revealed how Jurgen Klopp had urged him to opt out of duty for the Netherlands this month due to his ongoing rib issues.
But he insisted on joining his country, largely due to their rivalry with Germany, and that clearly paid off as he netted his second international goal—both coming since being named captain.
Richard Jolly explores the need for Liverpool to find an additional attacking element—and explains how Jurgen Klopp is completely aware of the issue.
Bernardo Silva was perfectly positioned to snuff out past danger.
He had dropped deeper than usual, sitting to Fernandinho’s right, preventing the Brazilian from becoming isolated against, and outnumbered by, midfield runners. He was stationed in Liverpool’s inside-left channel.
The Portuguese played very well at Anfield last Sunday. He also seemed primed to stop a man who may not feature again for another 10 months.
Proactive so often, Pep Guardiola was reactive, getting his gameplan right months late, albeit when Oxlade-Chamberlain was injured and his Champions League hopes had been destroyed.
It was the tactical version of closing the gate after a horse had bolted.Central surging
If last week’s stalemate illustrated how Liverpool are missing the Englishman’s dynamism, the drudgery forming a contrast with their spring superiority, it highlighted a wider issue.
It had been obscured amid the strengthening of the spine of the side, the transformation of the defensive record and the winning start to the season, but Liverpool are starting to miss Philippe Coutinho.
Not the Brazilian as such, wonderful a player as he was and terrific as his goalscoring record could be in the major matches, but someone from the midfield who could join the front three, relieve the burden on them and offer a catalytic capacity to make something happen, perhaps out of nothing.
Briefly, brilliantly, Oxlade-Chamberlain did that.
More of an athlete, less of a technician, more likely to catch a team on the counter-attack with raw pace and less likely to find the top corner from 30 yards, he could never be deemed a duplicate of Coutinho.
Stylistically, he is more of a Jurgen Klopp player than Liverpool’s record sale. But the common denominator was excellence in the final third.
And the early season emphasis has been on solidity in the centre of the pitch. James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have been trusted in many of the stiffer tests, starting as a trio against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and then City.Perspiration vs. Inspiration
Milner has been a magnificent blend of yeoman and star man, possessor of his magnificently improbable record for most Champions League assists in a season and, as the penalty taker, is potentially capable of 10 goals this season.
Yet none of the trio—and certainly not Fabinho either—ranks as the supplementary attacker in the heart of the midfield.
Perhaps Wijnaldum once did, but his days as a No. 10 are in the past. Each offers more perspiration than inspiration.
If players of Coutinho’s talent and skillset are rarities—and his £142 million price shows they are—Liverpool have been aware of the need to compensate for his sale.
The summer interest in Lyon’s Nabil Fekir indicated a willingness to add a replacement as an attacking central midfielder; like Coutinho, the Frenchman may have been a No. 10 by trade who could be rebranded as the more attacking of Klopp’s No. 8s.
Instead, the quest to replicate aspects of Coutinho’s contribution involves players who are both more different from the departed man and from each other.
The focus on Coutinho, while understandable, obscures the reality that another completed a quartet that, in typically clichéd fashion, was dubbed “the Fab Four.”
Two years ago, before injury derailed his career, Adam Lallana offered support to the front three from the midfield. His focus was on close-combination play in confined areas, but he brought chemistry.
Oxlade-Chamberlain offered energy. What Naby Keita may provide is unpredictability. The Guinean has rarely produced the 90-minute displays that guarantee selection.
He has been the anti-Milner, the man rarely trusted against elite opposition, so far, but he seems a player designed for the meme era: one capable of producing memorable moments with speed, skill and audacity.
Keita’s explosiveness and ability suggest that he could be the game-changer, allying Oxlade-Chamberlain’s speed with Coutinho’s shooting from distance.
Equally, a return of no goals and no assists in his embryonic Liverpool career shows that remains more of a theory than a reality whereas, in two seasons with Leipzig, he was involved in almost a goal every other Bundesliga match.
Then there is the wild card, tried and discarded despite a seemingly successful cameo. Xherdan Shaqiri was hauled off at half-time against Southampton despite playing pivotal parts in two goals and performing well.
The sense was that the Swiss was too attack-minded, that he left Liverpool’s two remaining central midfielders with too much to do, and that 4-2-3-1 does not work in a way that 4-3-3 does.
But his selection was a sign that Klopp is aware of the issue and was exploring options.
A fit-again Lallana or a high-performing Keita would offer enticing ones.
But if the headline news at Anfield has concerned the goal droughts (relatively speaking, anyway) of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, what it should actually have done is underline the importance of having a fourth scorer (besides Daniel Sturridge in reserve).
It is about having an alternative finisher for when the forward trio are below their best or frustrated by obdurate defenders, about emulating Coutinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, about turning the key three into a feared four.
Mohamed Salah scored directly from a corner for Egypt on Friday night, then limped off with a muscle injury in the final stages of their match against Swaziland.
Egypt ran out comfortable winners, 4-1, with Salah’s 45th-minute goal the undoubted highlight.
But Liverpool’s talisman later looked to have picked up a muscle injury, possibly his groin, and was eventually subbed in stoppage time.
What was frustrating was how long he remained on the pitch despite Egypt being comfortably ahead.
After the match, Egypt’s assistant coach said the injury was a muscle strain and the player will undergo medical tests.
Liverpool will surely want those tests to take place back at Melwood, rather than remaining with the international setup.
Mohamed Salah scores from a corner-kick like a Pharaoh
— Hady Of Egypt ?????? (@hadyelmedany) October 12, 2018
Egypt play in Swaziland on Tuesday in another Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
In April, Salah picked up a groin injury against Man City in the Champions League, undergoing a scan before missing the Merseyside derby – a game where Jurgen Klopp rotated his squad anyway – and then returned for the away leg against City the following week.
Groin injuries can, in some instances, mean up to four weeks on the sidelines.
Elsewhere, there was better news as Naby Keita appeared for Guinea. The midfielder had trained alone earlier in the week, leading to speculation he may be suffering with an injury.
Adam Lallana is back in full training after his 11th injury since joining Liverpool, but it will be difficult to return to a regular role, as explained by our injury expert here.
EXCLUSIVE FOR THIS IS ANFIELD
Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT of Injury Insight
The 30-year-old midfielder has been cleared to play against Huddersfield after missing Liverpool’s first seven league games with a groin injury, but the pressing question remains – can he actually stay on the pitch and become a reliable option for some much-needed midfield depth?
Suffice to say, it’s going to be an uphill battle due to his extensive injury history:
Credit – Transfermarkt.com
What really alarms me is the series of repeat soft tissue injuries that he’s suffered from the 2016 season onwards – missing a combined total of eight months and nearly 50 games with recurring hamstring and groin injuries.
To understand why hamstring and groin injuries are so problematic for footballers, let’s take a closer look at each:
I. The Hamstrings
The hamstrings are constantly stressed in a football match, for two specific reasons:
The hamstrings decelerate (“brake”) the front (swing) leg on every forward stride to create a stable base of support for the next stride:
This happens on every single stride.
Additionally, whenever Lallana wants to decelerate and slow down, the hamstrings forcefully activate to slow down the legs and decrease the pace. The faster he’s running the more stress there is on the hamstrings to accomplish that task.
To complete these deceleration tasks, the hamstrings contract while lengthening, otherwise known as an “eccentric contraction.” This is in contrast to a “concentric contraction” which is when a muscle contracts while shortening. I created the following visual, using the example of a biceps curl, to illustrate the difference:
An eccentric contraction is significantly more stressful on the muscle. In fact, the soreness you feel after a workout is more often than not due to the eccentric portion of the weight-lifting.
Further, the hamstring decelerates (“brake”) the lower leg during the follow-through phase of the kicking motion which adds even more stress:
The second reason why football puts significant stress on the hamstrings is:
B. Combined Hip Flexion and Knee Extension
Combined forceful hip flexion and knee extension during any movement puts additional stress on the hamstring:
Lallana will be constantly asked to do both of these things. Additionally, he has some major risk factors for hamstring re-injury:
1 – The most reliable risk factor, by far, for future hamstring injury is a previous hamstring injury. Research shows that players with a previous hamstring injury are two to six times more likely to have another strain.
Further, most of these re-injuries happen within the first two months after returning, with increased risk thereafter.
Some studies have shown that the risk for re-injuring a hamstring is three times higher than a non-injured player for up to a year after the initial strain.
Lallana has an extensive history of hamstring problems and he’s definitely still inside that one year window of increased injury risk (his last official hamstring strain was March 2018).
2 – A second risk factor for Lallana is age (he’s 30). According to multiple studies, the older you get, the more likely you are to injure a hamstring. Specifically, athletes 23 and older are up to 3.9 times more likely to injure a hamstring and athletes 25 and older are up to 4.4 times more likely.
Generally, the overall risk for hamstring injury increases by nearly 30% every year after the start of a professional football career.
3 – Running quantity has been linked to increased hamstring injuries. In Jurgen Klopp’s system, that emphasises closing down space quickly via a constant press, there’s certainly a lot of running required.
Additionally, this can lead to fatigue which (can you guess what’s coming?) has also been linked to an increased risk for hamstring injury – potentially due to decreased hamstring torque and/or strength deficits as fatigue sets in.
For all these reasons, we still have to be weary of Lallana re-injuring a hamstring. However, the more immediate concern is the injury that has kept him out thus far this season…
II. The Groin Strain
“Groin” is a nebulous term, but for footballers it often refers to the strain of the adductors (a group of five muscles) or illiopsoas (a group of two) muscles. Both of which are near the groin region:
Like the hamstrings, these muscles are also constantly put under stress in a football match. They have to activate during running, any kicking motion, acceleration/deceleration, twisting, and any lateral movement. For these reasons, groin strains are among the most common injuries in adult male footballers, accounting for nearly 11 to 16% of all football injuries.
Additionally, the higher the competition level (and therefore match intensity) the more stress on the muscles. It’s no coincidence a higher rate of groin strains occur at the highest levels of football competition and can lead to a vicious cycle of constantly recurring groin strains.
Furthermore, like the hamstrings, Lallana also has several risk factor for re-injuring the groin:
2 – Age is also again a risk factor. With groin injuries, age-related changes result in the tissue being less elastic and less able to absorb force which results in a higher injury risk.
In addition to specific hamstring and groin risk re-injury risk factors, there’s one last thing we have to consider in determining Lallana’s viability going forward:
III. The Kinetic Chain
The human body is a series of interdependent parts, with each part relying on the others to distribute stress – like links in a chain.
Credit – Kinetica
When one part of that chain is injured, the rest have to compensate and take on additional work. It’s like being in a group project when no one else pulls their weight.
An extensive injury history, like Lallana’s, can change movemnts mechanics and lead to compensations throughout that chain. In turn, certain muscles can take on too much stress & become overloaded. To that point, the research shows that both hamstring and groin injury risk is increased when other muscles in the lower leg are injured. It’s yet another risk factor for the former Southampton player.
IV. All in All
I know this piece may seem like a Debbie Downer. However, I want to make clear that these risks are inherent for any ageing footballer who has an extensive soft tissue injury history and will be playing in a high work rate, press system. But they are not certainties.
If Lallana is re-introduced gradually – which I fully expect to be the case, Klopp ain’t no fool – and works extremely diligently on his fitness and ongoing prevention, there’s the potential for him to become a valuable contributor in the depleted midfield.
Does that mean he’ll be playing a 90-minute role? Highly doubtful. But there’s a chance he can return to being a good rotation player for the team.
Irrespective of everything else, I’ve seen first-hand how repetitive, nagging injuries can negatively affect a player’s mental state so on that basis alone, I hope he’s through the worst of them.
Liverpool’s New Year match against Manchester City is among seven games being rescheduled for TV coverage in December and January.
The Reds’ trip to face last season’s title winners will now take place on Thursday, January 3 at 8pm.
That means there will be no game for Liverpool on New Year’s Day, or indeed on New Year’s Eve – as there was when the two sides faced each other at Anfield two years ago.
Liverpool’s final game of 2018 will be at home to Arsenal on December 29, 5.30pm kick off.
The Boxing Day fixture against Newcastle at Anfield will not be shown on TV, and will remain as a 3pm kick off.
The Merseyside derby is among the other changes, moved to Sunday December 2 with a 4.15pm kick off.
The Reds’ home game against Manchester United will be a 4pm kick off a fortnight later on December 16.
Liverpool’s Festive Fixtures
New signing Fabinho has yet to win a place in the team, but says he’s already learning at Liverpool and there’s much more to come.
The Brazilian arrived from Monaco in the summer as something of a shock signing.
A defensive midfielder first and foremost, he has so far watched on while Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum have rotated duty in the deepest role, gaining minutes with just three appearances thus far.
And the new No. 3 says he’s adapting well to the manager’s wishes, learning the Liverpool way—with plenty of help from his compatriots, as he told Liverpoolfc.com.
The task now, for Fabinho, is to earn a starting role in the team—and he says his manager is very demanding.
“My process to adapt to English football has been very good. Since pre-season I believe I have understood the way Jurgen Klopp plays and the way the team plays.
“I’m playing a little bit more and that’s important to me because it’s important to adapt on the pitch by playing matches.
“It’s a new experience for me because Klopp has a different style of work from the way I’m used to – but this is something I will learn.
“I have learned a few things from him but it is just the start. He is a coach who demands a lot from his players, not only in matches but also on a daily basis in training.”
With a tough run of matches now out of the way, however, there’s every chance that Fabinho‘s opportunity comes sooner rather than later.
He’s expected to play at least once for Brazil over the international break, and that added game time will see him ready for action once he returns.
The likes of Huddersfield and Fulham await the Reds over the next month or so, as well as Red Star twice, and Fabinho will surely play a much more prominent role as he settles fully into the Liverpool team.
Virgil van Dijk believes Manchester City have developed a new respect for Liverpool but insists it will be games against teams outside the top six which will be pivotal to the Reds’ Premier League title challenge.
City boss Pep Guardiola reined in their attacking intent during Sunday’s goalless draw at Anfield with a first-half performance in particular which was the most restrained of any since his arrival in England.
The Catalan, who experienced three chastening defeats to Liverpool last season in the Premier League and Champions League quarter-finals, was wary of being exposed by Jurgen Klopp’s side and, as a result, the match was not much of a spectacle.
While Van Dijk said it showed how much of a threat the Reds posed to the defending champions, he felt greater consistency over the course of the season would be the key to a title challenge.
“Obviously they were a bit cautious of the way we played and I think we have earned that respect,” said the Holland captain.
“We made it difficult for them and they made it difficult for us at times but that’s how it is.
“But I think it is not about these games, it is all about the other games, the difficult games which we have against mid-table and lower teams.
“We want to get as close as possible and do as well as we can but we know it is going to be hard.
“We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to keep it going.”
The usually unflappable Van Dijk was at fault for the one real incident when he lunged in on City substitute Leroy Sane and conceded a penalty, which Riyad Mahrez proceeded to blaze over the crossbar.
It did mean, however, Liverpool extended their run of not conceding a home league goal to 841 minutes stretching back to February 24 and Michail Antonio’s consolation for West Ham.
“I think to keep a clean sheet after a penalty in the last five minutes makes me a very happy man,” added the Dutchman.
“It was not smart from me personally and hopefully it will never happen again.
“Eighty-five minutes, you obviously get a bit fatigued, and that moment goes by in a split second and I decided to dive in, which is not what I would normally do.
“It was a decision I made and hopefully it will be the last time I make that decision at that time.
“We aim to improve every game and we want to win every game.
“After the international break there are three important games against Huddersfield, Red Star and Cardiff so we want to be ready for that.”
Liverpool expect to be without James Milner for a month due to a hamstring injury, according to reports on Monday night.
The vice-captain has been an integral part of the team in the opening months of the season, largely being a key starter in the centre of the park.
Against Man City at the weekend, however, Milner’s time on the pitch was cut short, with a hamstring injury forcing him off well before half time, to be replaced by Keita.
Although the initial assessment from the player himself was hopeful, according to manager Jurgen Klopp, there were fears he could be sidelined for a significant length of time.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a long-term absentee and neither Keita nor Fabinho yet completely up to speed in their new surroundings, a lengthy spell out for Milner could prove difficult for Klopp to manage.
But with the international break now meaning it’s two weeks before Liverpool play again, Milner could only miss as few as four matches.
The Telegraph‘s Chris Bascombe reports that the No. 7 could return “within a month,” in fact.Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures
Thankfully for the Reds and for Klopp, the upcoming run of games between now and mid-November should be somewhat more forgiving than the recent gruelling run.
Tottenham, PSG, Southampton, Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Man City was something of a nightmare run in terms of importance, quality faced and thus the physical and mental toll on players, and Milner had played more than most this season before his injury.
Even so, his enforced absence should mean more chances in the coming weeks for Fabinho, Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri to carve a spot for themselves in the team, as the Reds look to build on their excellent overall start to the season.
Liverpool maintained their unbeaten start to the season with a 0-0 draw with Man City, which raised a number of talking points.
Premier League, Anfield
October 7, 2018
It was a heavyweight clash which had many expecting goals galore with the recent encounters in mind, however it ended up being a battle at the back and a scrappy affair reminiscent of the title struggle between Arsenal and Man United in the late ’90s.
Neither side were prepared to give each other an inch with the potential repercussions lingering at the back of their minds, effectively ensuring they cancelled each other out.
The fact neither team registered more than two shots on target across the entire game said it all, and painted a clear picture that the battle for the title will be decided in the games against the rest of the league.
While City were able to conquer all levels of competition last season, the Reds struggled against those in the bottom half as well as against their rivals on the road.
It is a different story so far, however, with Liverpool have only dropped points to Chelsea away from home despite a tricky start to the campaign.
The season is long and twists and turns will await, but there is not long to wait for the second meeting between the pair as a New Years Day clash awaits—but between then and now a lot can change.True Captain’s Performance
Jordan Henderson noted in the pre-game programme that “we’ll give everything to show a positive response” following the midweek defeat to Napoli, and while the potency and clinical edge is still a work in progress, the Liverpool skipper did not disappoint.
He divides opinion on a game-by-game basis, but was a clear standout during the stalemate and was key to the Reds’ threatening start to proceedings before becoming integral to the defensive stand as City attempted to make their move.
It was a true captain’s performance. On numerous occasions he was the man to make key tackles and interceptions, not to mention his persistent closing down of the City players in possession—and he is not all backward and sideways passing as many would lead you to believe.
In games where space is readily available Henderson thrives and leads from the front, he was continually looking to spread the ball and find space beyond City’s defence and was accountable at every turn.
With competition in the deep-lying role likely to ramp up over the coming weeks, Henderson has done his chances no harm in holding onto his spot.Lack of Midfield Drive Remains Cause for Concern
Liverpool’s key to overcoming Pep Guardiola’s side in recent meetings has stemmed from the drive Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has injected in the middle of the park, but in his absence there was no heir to the throne in the starting lineup.
With the front three struggling to fire on all cylinders so far this term, the penetrating runs and passes that a creative midfielder—like the England international—possesses offers the front three the chance for their star to shine brightly.
It is an area which has been a cause for concern for the Reds for much of the campaign, with the tried combination of Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner yet to prove they can consistently offer a route to goal.
Milner’s injury early in the first half gave Naby Keita the opportunity to add the explosiveness required, but it still took over an hour to register a shot on target—although the visitors did similarly struggle in the opening stages.
It is a symptom of Liverpool’s recent form which has lacked the potency which supporters have come to expect, but a break from club duty could offer the perfect opportunity to hit the reset button.
The question which will continue to linger, however, is the time it is taking Keita to make a statement of intent to justify his return to the starting lineup.
There is no doubt he has all the tools, but he again failed to make his presence known.Defenders Stars of the Show
Liverpool have commonly drawn comparisons to having three different models of cars representing each third of the field over recent years, with the attack and midfield far superior to that of the defence.
The tables have turned, however. The campaign has yet to see Liverpool hit the heights of last season as the forward players have yet to hit their stride.
It ensures the defence has had to be resolute and drag the team over the line—a prospect which would have been met with resounding disbelief this time last year.
The Croatian defender could be criticised for his sloppy tackle on Sergio Aguero which, on another day, could have been given as a penalty, but overall he rose to the occasion and did not disappoint.
It is a welcome change to know that while the midfield and attack struggle to find their feet that they won’t have the added pressure of needing to outscore the opposition as the back line has them covered, even if changes to personnel have been made.
The foundations have been laid and Liverpool now have a superior defensive model, just an oil change is needed to get all engines firing at the same time.An Extremely Valuable Point Earned
It was a game where neither team were eager to throw all their cards on the table, hesitant to give the impetus to each other such were the potential repercussions—the visitors still visibly scarred from recent meetings.
With two defeats in cup competitions and the first set of points dropped in the Premier League over the last week, it would have been easy to overreact if Liverpool failed to pick up any points—which a late penalty threatened to do.
However, the Reds remain undefeated in the league and the next block of six games following the international break are relatively kind for Klopp’s men.
On the domestic front they come up against three teams currently in the bottom four of the table, with Arsenal the headline fixture before national duty calls once more, with a double-header in the Champions League against Red Star Belgrade sandwiched between.
It has not been an easy start to the campaign and Liverpool are exactly where they need to be, and when the fluidity finally returns they are bound to be a completely different animal.
Pep Guardiola explained how Man City looked to slow down the game at Anfield, as he believes Liverpool could be “the best team in the world” on the break.
Sunday’s clash was set up as the biggest game of the season so far, with two title rivals duelling for three points before the international break.
The Reds came out of the blocks quickly, but were eventually subdued as a fraught 0-0 draw played out, with Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss compounding a lack of chances.
This, as Guardiola explained after the game, was part of City’s game plan, with the visitors looking to stymie Liverpool’s swift counter-attacking play after losing twice at Anfield last season.
“If you play so quick, they are much better than us,” he told reporters.
“We want to create, but they wait for when you make a mistake in this kind of situation.
“We like to make the process, the buildup, to create the spaces. It’s not easy.
“But if it’s an open game at Anfield, an open game against Liverpool, you don’t even have one chance, not even one percent. They play for that.
“We controlled it with Riyad, the guy who could give the extra pass; Bernardo in the middle, to give you an extra pass.
“It’s important to get that base, because if it’s up and down quickly they are much, much better—they are maybe the best team in the world running these transitions, offensive-defensively.
“There is not a team better in the world than them, because it’s built for that, it’s created for that.
“It’s what Jurgen feels, and what the players take, for that sense. In that situation they are much better than us.”
This shows the greatest respect to Liverpool, with Guardiola effectively altering his approach not so as to threaten the hosts, but to suffocate them.
The Reds were certainly fortunate to come away with a point, with Mahrez sending his penalty way over Alisson‘s bar.
Guardiola’s game plan should provide Klopp with food for thought, as though few sides possess the quality or strength in depth that City do, they can clearly frustrate them with numbers.
The game ended with possession shared almost equally at 49.4-50.6, and as Guardiola attested, with the home side unable to get “up and down quickly,” they failed to make their mark.
The Reds impressed early on but soon faded as their title rivals gained control of a game defined by a series of big decisions from referee Martin Atkinson.
He twice waved away penalty appeals from City, as well as overlooking some strong challenges from Pep Guardiola’s side, before eventually awarding the visitors a spot-kick late on.
Riyad Mahrez stepped up, but blazed over, leaving Klopp relieved to assess a response to the midweek defeat to Napoli as he addressed reporters at Anfield.
“We were lucky in that situation but we deserved it, a bit of luck, because with the performance the boys showed today, it’s just good,” he said.
“To respond is really important, but to respond is really difficult when the next opponent is Manchester City because there is no time for any wrong thoughts or whatever.
“It was easy to adjust because we made not too many mistakes at Napoli, but a massive one formation-wise.
“We didn’t adapt to what Napoli did, and today we were back again so I am fine.”
The manager also provided an update on the fitness of James Milner, who was forced off midway through the first half with a hamstring problem.
He said “it’s too early” to determine the extent of his injury, but that the midfielder had insisted it wasn’t a “‘big one’.”
And with Liverpool heading into the international break level with City and Chelsea on 20 points, Klopp took a positive stance.
“If somebody would have told me after eight matchdays we would have had 20 points, I would say with pretty much any fixture list I’d have said ‘yes’,” he added.
“But with that fixture list I’d have said ‘I’ll buy it, let’s start on the ninth matchday’.”
The Reds’ next game comes against Klopp’s closest friend, David Wagner, as they travel to Huddersfield Town on October 20 looking to return to winning ways.
Jurgen Klopp has beaten a Pep Guardiola team in his career more times than any other manager (seven).
Liverpool could be the first team to defeat a Guardiola team three times in the Premier League.
Chelsea have also beaten City twice under the Spaniard.Perfect Hunting Ground for Salah?
Since Boxing Day, Mo Salah has failed to score in just one league game at Anfield—the goalless draw with Stoke in April—finding the net in 11 of the last 12.
Salah has scored in the last three clashes with City. The last man to find the net in four in a row was Ian Rush (1992-94).
Salah is one goal short of scoring 50 in all competitions in his English club career.Dominating at Anfield
The Reds are looking for a sixth successive Anfield league victory over City for the time since 1972-1981 when they won 10 in a row.
Liverpool have scored in each of the last 24 league clashes with City at Anfield—the last time they failed to find the net was in a goalless draw in August 1986.
Liverpool have not conceded a goal in the last 751 minutes of league football at Anfield—their best since a sequence of 934 minutes in 2007.Today’s Benchmark, 23 Years On
The Reds’ biggest win against City at Anfield came in October 1995 when they won 6-0 with Ian Rush (two), Robbie Fowler (two), Jamie Redknapp and Neil Ruddock scoring.
The last Liverpool player to score a hat-trick against City was Michael Owen in September 2002 at Maine Road.
The last to record a hat-trick at Anfield against today’s opponents was Kenny Dalglish in December 1982. He scored three in a 5-2 win.Liverpool’s City Connections
Daniel Sturridge scored six times in 32 games for City at the start of his career, with five of those goals coming in 21 league appearances.
Roberto Firmino scored his first Liverpool goal at the Etihad in November 2015 in his side’s 4-1 win.
The Brazilian has had a hand in six Premier League goals against today’s opponents with three goals and three assists.
James Milner played in 147 league games for City netting 13 times. In all competitions he scored 18 goals in 203 appearances during his time with the club.
His City debut came against Liverpool in August 2010 in a 3-0 win for the Blues.
Alberto Moreno‘s first Liverpool appearance came at City in August 2014.Aguero’s Anfield Rut
Sergio Aguero has scored six times against Liverpool during his career—with all of them coming at the Etihad.
He has scored 207 goals in 302 appearances for the Citizens in league and cup.
Aguero has scored in each of his last three games for his club.Birthday Boy
Trent Alexander-Arnold will turn 20 years of age on the day of this game.This Season’s Scorers
Liverpool: Mane (4), Sturridge (4), Firmino (3), Salah (3), Milner (2), Matip (1), Wijnaldum (1), own goals (1)
Man City: Aguero (8), Sterling (4), Bernardo Silva (3), Mahrez (3), Silva (3), Gabriel Jesus (2), Foden (1), Gundogan (1), Laporte (1), Sane (1), Walker (1), own goals (1)
They’ve come through largely well, though a late defeat in Naples midweek was a low point.
At Anfield, though, they have to chance to supplant City atop the Premier League table heading into the international break…if they can find a way to raise performance levels to combat the depth and quality available to Pep Guardiola.
Ahead of the match, This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) spoke with TIA writer James Nalton (@JDNalton) and Reds fans Nav Kaplish (@nkaplish) and Jonathan Higgins (@Jhiggins3), to gauge their thoughts on how Liverpool should take on the challenge and how the 90 minutes might pan out.How should Liverpool approach the game? Hard and fast, like in the Champions League last season, or be warier because of our own current form?
KARL: I think we have to try and start on the front foot and not let City take the game to us, because our midfield is being swamped a little too easily at times just recently.
Until each part of the team is playing with last year’s cohesion, we won’t be at the same devastating level, so we need to react accordingly and try to stay ahead of the curve in these biggest of matches.
We’ve already seen this season that City will only struggle if you try to go toe-to-toe with them (see the Wolves match) and Liverpool are best-equipped to do exactly that.
JAMES: In order to recover their form Liverpool need to revert to what they are good at. High-octane attacking football, relentless pressing, and swift counter-attacks.
They now have not one, but two central defenders who can deal with the one-on-one situations this type of system can produce, using their pace, strength, and defensive nous. But support from midfield will be vital.
Start fast and stay fast, and use the new-found depth from the bench to maintain this throughout.
NAV: Rock, Paper, Scissors: I firmly believe that the reason Klopp keeps getting the better of Pep is that our primary tactics of pressing seems to beat Pep’s primary tactic of dominating position.
Other teams can’t deal with Pep because his tactics outwit most other managers’, but Klopp is genuinely his Kryptonite.
Our best chance is for us to do what we best: start aggressively, press, hustle, hassle.
JONATHAN: This is a simple one for me, we need a complete return to the blueprint of last season’s Champions League games.
You just have to look at Manchester City’s bus arrival plans for this game to sum up just how wounded they are. Just like off the pitch, they will be doing everything in their power on the pitch to attempt to neutralise the situation.
After the disappointment in Italy midweek, we need a fast, aggressive start to further increase the doubts in the Manchester City players’ minds.Which changes would you make to the starting lineup, if any?
KARL: I’d honestly be bringing in Fabinho here. It doesn’t matter that it’s his full debut, he’s obviously mentally strong enough to cope and more to the point, he’d bring key traits in midfield that would help.
If we’re to press high and hard, we can get behind City’s midfield line, but there’s always their own outlets to worry about such as David Silva. He’s not lightning fast, he’s clever, has great movement—and Fabinho can be equal to that. He’ll do the simple parts of his job, he’ll make a few narky fouls to stop counters when necessary.
I think Milner has been off the boil recently so it’s him I’d leave out on this occasion. Get Gini and Henderson charging around as the 8s, assuming Keita isn’t fully fit to start, and press the life out of City’s deeper midfielders.
JAMES: Had Fabinho played more games it would be tempting to throw him in. Nevertheless, Klopp must be tempted to do so anyway.
As it stands Liverpool have to hope Keita is fit enough to return and provide the box-to-box energy in midfield.
Milner started the season really well, but using him in the League Cup game was one match too many, and he now appears to be flagging. Which is a shame as he would have been useful in this fixture, and if he does start we can hope for a second wind before the international break.
The defence and attack picks itself despite Shaqiri making a good case for inclusion. While Salah’s performances on the ball have been poor, off the ball he has been outstanding. The latter will be important here so he should keep his place.
A midfield of Henderson, Wijnaldum deepest and Keita, could be the best option, but Milner and Fabinho are also in with a shout. All five could play a big part whether starting or not.
NAV: I would play the same 11 against City as played most of the game in Napoli.
We lack an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain type of energy in the middle of the park, but the midfield needs to work together intuitively for such a game and I don’t think Keita is there yet with the wavelength. Henderson deepest, Wijnaldum and Milner alongside.
JONATHAN: Assuming Keita has recovered fully, I would like to see the same team line up which started midweek against Napoli.
The back five picks itself, as do the front three even if we haven’t seen that trio at their dynamic best yet.
Midfield is the only debate for me. I personally prefer Gini in the No. 6 at the moment as he gives us more energy and drive from deeper and it is arguably his most effective position for us.
Milner’s experience will be crucial in this type of battle, particularly to give Trent some extra cover, as no doubt City will try and overload him on the right-hand side. The energy and direction running of Keita will be a huge addition to our (hopefully) aggressive approach also.Which Liverpool players will be key to a victory?
KARL: Neither of the wider forwards are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but Firmino’s level has largely remained unchanged—just the service to him has been poorer, as have those around him to play off. We need Bobby at his best, on and off the ball.
It’s not just about chance creation, though, and while I have no concerns about the goalkeeper/centre-backs triangle, we need whoever is playing as the No. 8s in midfield to be absolutely relentless with their work rate.
Tracking the channels, doubling up with the full-back, winning possession and playing forward quickly—this is a mammoth job which needs to be done near-perfectly to beat City.
JAMES: As we have seen against Man City, all players need to be on their game to secure the win. The full-backs need to deal with the wide threats, especially if Guardiola uses Sane as a wide forward again.
But the key to actually scoring goals in order to win the game will be the front three. The balanced trio whose attributes complement each other perfectly need to make a return, and the hesitation in front of goal seen at times this season need to turn into ruthless finishing.
NAV: Henderson and Trent. Hendo as the anchor, for dealing with the creative midfield of City, and Alexander-Arnold to exploit the weaker left wing of City, in terms of their defence.
JONATHAN: The midfield battle as I’ve mentioned above will be crucial to the outcome of the game; if they can get control of the game and feed our front three regularly, we are halfway to victory.
Even slightly off-par, you would have to fancy the forwards to exploit the City defence if they get the right service.Give us a prediction and why you think it’ll pan out that way?
KARL: As much as I’d like to, I can’t honestly say I think we’re heading into the game with our performances suggesting we’ll play at the intensity required. Unless we’re super-ruthless with finishing even half-chances, I can see this one getting away from us.
Hopefully this is entirely wrong and our unbeaten Anfield run continues, but I’m seeing 2-1 to City.
JAMES: Guardiola has surely had enough games to work Liverpool out, but as with all the great footballers or the systems in which they play: working them out is one thing, stopping them is another.
If both teams operate at full capacity they could cancel each other out in an entertaining game. For that reason, I think it’ll be a score draw.
NAV: 2-2. I think this will end even as our attackers aren’t firing yet.
JONATHAN: 3-2 victory for the Redmen. No doubt there will be goals in this game, there always is. I expect a fight-back and a reaction from our midweek game. We have made a good start in the league but everyone involved at the club knows how big of a statement a victory here will be.
Sunday, October 7, 2018 — 4.30pm (BST)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
It doesn’t get much bigger than this for Liverpool in terms of their title credentials being tested.
A daunting seven-game run of fixtures will come to an end on Sunday evening and we will know a lot more about Klopp’s men come the final whistle.
It may only be early October, with many twists and turns still to come, but after Wednesday’s defeat in Naples a big response is needed.
City cruised to the Premier League title last season, racking up 100 points on their way to glory and setting the benchmark for their rivals.
Pep Guardiola’s team have matched the Reds’ total of 19 points from seven games in 2018/19, albeit with far easier fixtures.
This is a matchup between two of Europe’s best sides, in a fixture that could dominate the English game over the next several years.
The Reds have had the better of their opponents in recent times, winning their last five meetings at Anfield, but this is a City team brimming with world-class talent seeking revenge after the Champions League quarter-final defeat in April.
Liverpool are well aware of the problems they can cause City, however, so there should be no reason to approach the game with too much caution.
Victory would be an outstanding way to head into the international break, going three points clear of the champions in the process ahead of an easier upcoming run.
This fixture last season: Liverpool 4-3 Man CityTeam News
Naby Keita was taken to hospital after suffering a back problem against Napoli, although fears have been allayed over it being a serious injury.
Liverpool’s back line should remain the same, given the magnitude of the fixture, with Joe Gomez in particularly imperious form.
Guardiola is without Fabian Delph, but key duo Benjamin Mendy and Kevin De Bruyne could play a part having recovered for respective lengthy injuries.
There are question marks over the fitness of Ilkay Gundogan, while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is a long-term absentee.Last 5 at Home to Man City
Won 3-0 – April 2018 (Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane)
Won 4-3 – January 2018 (Oxlade-Chamberlain, Firmino, Mane, Salah; Sane, B.Silva, Gundogan)
Won 1-0 – December 2016 (Wijnaldum)
Won 3-0 – March 2016 (Lallana, Milner, Firmino)
Won 2-1 – March 2015 (Henderson, Coutinho; Dzeko)
Aguero has been a thorn in Liverpool’s side at the Etihad Stadium, scoring in all six games against them until failing to in the Reds’ 2-1 Champions League victory in April.
The Argentine striker has never found the net at Anfield in nine appearances for City and Atletico Madrid, however, incredibly managing just three shots on target in that time.
Let’s hope that statistic stays the same this weekend.Form
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Man City – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 2-1 vs. Hoffenheim
Won 2-0 vs. Brighton
Won 3-0 vs. Oxford
Won 5-0 vs. Cardiff
Lost 2-1 vs. Lyon
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Klopp spoke refreshingly about his preference for playing entertaining football:
“The most important job of football is entertaining the people.
“It’s only football. We don’t save lives, we don’t plant anything, create anything, are not good in surgeries.
“We only play football, so if we don’t entertain the people why would we play then?
“It’s not always possible, but it’s a really important thing. That’s why we have to try to create constantly, or as often as possible.
“Pep’s team are the best at that. I can admit that easily because its so obvious.”TV & Live Blog Info
Unsurprisingly, the match is live on Sky Sports Main Event, and finishes off the weekend Premier League action in style.
Coverage gets underway at 4.15pm (BST) and kickoff is at 4.30pm.
Chris Williams is in charge of This is Anfield’s live blog, with great content and minute-by-minute updates from 3.45pm.
With Robbie Fowler watching on, Bobby Duncan netted a last-minute winner against former side Man City as the Liverpool U18s won 1-0 at Kirkby.
U18 Premier League, Kirkby
October 6, 2018
Goals: Duncan 90′
Three days on from a frustrating draw in Naples for the U19s, Barry Lewtas’ youngsters were back in action in the U18 Premier League on Saturday.
Mirroring the first-team fixture later in the weekend, the young Reds welcomed their City counterparts to Kirkby for an early title clash.
Liverpool went into the game in second, with their visitors fifth, and Lewtas made three changes from the side that won 4-2 at Stoke the previous weekend, bringing in Vitezslav Jaros, Jake Cain and Paul Glatzel.
He also included Duncan, who left City for Merseyside in the summer, and the striker was in the thick of a busy first half, as the hosts played some excellent football.
Glatzel arguably had the best chance of the first half for the young Reds, but was unable to swivel into space to get his shot off, while Rhys Williams produced some strong blocks at the other end.
Neither side were able to break the deadlock before half-time, but Liverpool arguably had the better of the first 45.
A well-worked corner from Leighton Clarkson saw Williams’ header eventually drop for Duncan, but the 17-year-old fired his effort well over.
Lewtas shuffled his pack early into the first half as he sent on summer signing Matteo Ritaccio for Jake Cain, and soon after a swift move saw Elijah Dixon-Bonner flash a shot wide.
Liverpool had a penalty shout waved off after Glatzel was brought down in the box, before Cole Palmer hit the side-netting for City, only to be flagged offside regardless.
The pendulum swung in the closing stages as City applied more pressure in the final third, but both Williams and Tom Clayton held firm with a series of blocks and clearances.
Williams nodded a free header wide and Ritaccio’s hopeful curler hit the crossbar late on, but true to the script, it was Duncan who powered home the winner in the last minute for his fifth league goal of the season.
TIA Man of the Match: Rhys Williams
Liverpool U18s: Jaros; Walls (Hoever 74′), R.Williams, Clayton, Larouci; Dixon-Bonner; Clarkson (Sharif 88′), Cain (Ritaccio 55′), Longstaff; Glatzel, Duncan
Subs not used: B.Williams, O’Rourke
Next match: Wolves (A) – U18 Premier League – Saturday, October 20 – 12pm (BST)
Man City are an impressive team, but they were no match for Liverpool head-to-head last season, thanks largely to a player who won’t be on the pitch on Sunday.
The stats say that Manchester City‘s 2017/18 Premier League winning side are the greatest English champions of the modern era. Most points (100). Most points ahead of second (19). Most wins (32). Most away wins (16). Most away points (50). Most goals (106). Best goal difference (+79). Most consecutive victories (18). Most empty sky blue plastic seats (thousands).
The stats also say they couldn’t beat Liverpool when the Reds had 11 men. 4-3 (Anfield). 3-0 (Anfield). 2-1 (The Etihad).
And we were the better team in the 5-0 defeat in Manchester until Sadio Mane‘s red card which, incidentally, resulted in Jurgen Klopp substituting Mo Salah at half-time – a fact that was conveniently forgotten last weekend at Chelsea when experts queued up to say Klopp would never have subbed the Egyptian King last season when Liverpool were losing.
Now you don’t need to understand the inner workings of the Large Hadron Collider to know having all our players on the pitch was helpful in beating Amazon Prime’s, sorry, Pep Guardiola’s side three times in a row – ending both their unbeaten league record and Champions League campaign – but I’ve got a nagging worry about Sunday’s Anfield clash due to the loss of a player who definitely won’t be on the pitch.
LFC 4 MCFC 3 – Wijnaldum, Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain started in midfield.
LFC 3 MCFC 0 – Henderson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain started in midfield.
MCFC 1 LFC 2 – Wijnaldum, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain started in midfield.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was the only midfielder to start in those three consecutive wins against City last season. It’s no coincidence.
Of course, he also made a goalscoring impact in both clashes at Anfield with two absolute rip-snorting Kop-end strikes in the opening 20 minutes.
He made Fernandinho look like a tractor pulling a load of cabbages when he ran past him before firing home a low shot from outside the penalty area to get the 4-3 Premier League game off to a flyer in January and his Champions League goal – after cleverly dropping into space between David Silva and Leroy Sane – was even better, a rocket of a shot from 25 yards that Ederson knew had beaten him when it was hit, but still made a courtesy dive for the cameras anyway.
Liverpool’s front three racked up so many goals last season that the spotlight was tilted away from the midfield’s lack of goalscoring prowess but following three games in which none of Salah, Mane or Bobby Firmino netted in it now feels more of a concern.
Emre Can – who also played very well against City last season – was our leading midfield goalscorer with six in 2017/18, followed by Oxlade-Chamberlain who weighed in with five.
However, Gini Wijnaldum (2), James Milner (1) and Jordan Henderson (1) only got four between them and, assuming the so-far goalless Naby Keita isn’t risked to start due to his injury in Naples, that’s likely to be Klopp’s midfield three on Sunday which suggests it will need the front three to be firing on all cylinders again if Liverpool are to get goals.
Aside from his pair of early howitzers, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s energy and pressing will also be missed. He led the midfield press superbly in those three games and for all the different qualities Gini, Milly and Hendo have, none do that job quite as well.
They’ll need to be collectively good against City – that goes without saying – so let’s hope they’re better than they were against Napoli which was more depressing than gegenpressing by the end.
Can Liverpool still beat Man City – who haven’t won at Anfield since Brookside ended, Concorde stopped flying and Chelsea FC were founded in 2003 – without the Ox grafting and getting goals? Yes. But I think it’ll be a lot, lot harder to do so without him in what may prove to be Liverpool’s biggest home game of the season.
The biggest match of the Premier League season so far sees the top two teams, who are separated only by goal difference, face each other at Anfield.
Liverpool have drawn most of the plaudits for their start to the campaign but go into the match on a three-match winless run, with defeat and then a draw against Chelsea in cup and league before Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League loss in Naples.
It was not just the result but the manner of it that left Reds fans disappointed, but Klopp sees plenty of cause for optimism ahead of Sunday.
He said: “After the game it felt much more clear they deserved to win than after the analysis. Yes they had more chances, we didn’t have a shot on target. In the last 15 minutes they had two big chances and scored a goal, they had moments more than we did.
“But the crowd was in a lot of moments really unhappy with the Napoli performance. We defended in a lot of moments really good. With the ball, again the timing was not good because we felt under pressure when there was no pressure.
“A lot of times it was really close that it could be good but there was no real perfect decision. Now we will have three days together until we play City and (we could) make the boys aware of what was all wrong.
“But that would mean I forget completely how we played three days before against Chelsea, so we have to stay cool. That’s how it is. It’s not that you miss it overnight.
“That night (against Napoli) the first 15 minutes was an open game with better opportunities for us. We have to start anew. Different game, different opponent, different challenge – unfortunately even bigger challenge.
“My faith in the team is so big. We want to show a reaction. I didn’t want to lose at Napoli but, if you ask me which is the best preparation mood wise, it’s losing a game. We felt it now and we don’t want to have that feeling again so we will fight with all we have for a different result.”
If Liverpool need to restore any confidence, they need only look back at their last three games against City, all of which they won.
Nearly half of all City’s defeats last season came against Klopp’s team, including in both legs of their Champions League quarter-final, while a 4-3 loss at Anfield ended their hopes of going a whole Premier League season unbeaten.
Klopp has been described as Pep Guardiola’s nemesis but the German insisted there is no magic formula to beating City.
He said: “Obviously we won the last three games against City. After none of these games you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City’, because there is no real way, no one thing that you have to do.
“You have to be ready, you need a fantastic football team – which thank God I have – with outstanding character, ready to be really brave, ready to make mistakes. Then it can work.
“That’s all we need to know. When somebody’s telling me, ‘Good luck for Sunday’, I think always, ‘Unfortunately, we need it’. But that’s no problem; if you work hard, you earn it.”
We round up the extra Liverpool news and transfer rumours on Friday, ahead of another weekend of Premier League action.
“It’s a new season. I’m sure Guardiola will be looking at the three games where we managed to get one over on them and seeing what he can change. We have to be prepared for that.
“Last season we did very well against them. The two quarter-finals were very good, especially at home when we went 3-0 up.
“Everyone expected it to be a tight game. In the second half we showed a side we hadn’t really shown before, we sat a bit deeper and limited them to very few chances. That’s what got us through in the end.
“We did get one over on them last season but they ended up with the Premier League and that’s what everyone strives for. They are the champions and they’ll have a game plan. But hopefully our game plan is better on the day.”
It promises to be a fascinating encounter this weekend and the result could shape the title race in the coming weeks and months.Van Dijk Hailed As Premier League’s Star Man
Virgil van Dijk has been outstanding ever since moving to Anfield at the beginning of the year, showing exactly why he is regarded as one of world football’s premier centre-backs.
His performances have not gone unnoticed and former Man United player Gary Neville begrudgingly admits no player has stood out more this season.
“Van Dijk – worryingly – has impressed me more than anybody,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He’s just a fantastic central defender.”
The 27-year-old will be given a stern test on Sunday afternoon, with an in-form Sergio Aguero looking to score his first-ever goal at Anfield.Klopp On What Wrong Against Napoli
Liverpool were bitterly disappointing away to Napoli on Wednesday night, losing 1-0 and lacking a spark throughout at Stadio San Paolo.
Speaking at Melwood on Friday afternoon, Klopp dissected where he believes the battle was lost, with certain aspects of his side’s play not clicking.
“The timing was not good in our defence.
“We didn’t adapt to what they did in the right way. We felt under pressure where there was no pressure. We have to stay cool.
“We have to show a reaction. I didn’t want to lose to Napoli but if you ask me what’s the best preparation mood-wise it’s this, as we don’t want to have that feeling again.”
The Reds’ manager is clearly eyeing up a big response from his players on Sunday afternoon, as they look to avoid going four matches without a win.Solanke Earns England U21 Call-Up
Dominic Solanke still hasn’t played a single minute of action for Liverpool’s first-team this season, falling down the pecking order at Anfield.
The 21-year-old’s lack of playing time has not deprived him of an international call-up, however, with the striker named in Aidy Boothroyd’s latest England U21s’ squad.
The Three Lions youngsters take on Andorra (October 11) and Scotland (October 16) later this month, with Solanke hoping to prove his worth.
Alexander-Arnold is a lover of chess, with the youngster known for playing it avidly with Ben Woodburn during moments of downtime.
On Monday in Manchester, the right-back will try his luck against Magnus Carlsen, world champion for the last eight years.
“Chess, like football, is all about strategy and skill,” said Alexander-Arnold.
“Judging when and how to attack, whilst keeping a watchful eye on your defence. The pieces, like players have different positions, places and qualities and you need to know how to get the best use of them in order to get the result.
“When Kaspersky Lab came to me I jumped at the chance. Football has always been my passion but, alongside that I have always played chess.
“It’s a release for me. I’ve played since I was very young and more recently I play Ben Woodburn regularly, even though he is in Sheffield at the moment we still have time for matches.
“Magnus will be a tough test, but I think with Kaspersky Lab’s help, I might surprise people.”
Alexander-Arnold is being mentored by nine-year-old Shreyas Royal and 12-year-old Kyan Bui, from Kaspersky Lab, which is frankly ridiculous!
In the slipstream of a defeat and performance like the one we inflicted upon ourselves at the San Paolo, against Napoli, there are two polar opposites where high populations of Liverpool fans reside.
First, we have those who are ‘violently happy.’
A place where everything is awesome, and negativity is pushed out of the body via rhythmic breathing, the clanging of finger-cymbals and the omission of a low level “hommmm” sound, all done while within a crouching yoga position.
No calamity is allowed to derail the feel-good factor and positivity remains high at all times. This community of Liverpool supporters will find beauty where there is mostly ugliness.
Then you have those who are ‘comfortably numb.’
This is a place where negativity is worn as a suit of armour, to protect the individual from the probability of collective failure.
These reds adhere to the notion that it’s not the defeat that hurts, it’s instead the hope which they put you through beforehand that kills you. This community of Liverpool supporters will find things to complain about, even on days when we win 5-0.
Both of these communities will often get ‘uppity’ if they feel like they’re being told how to support their team, or are offered some plain old, boring, common-sense alternative opinions.
No one is telling you how to support your team. People are allowed differing points of view, however.
Along the sliding-scale between these two polar opposites sits an array of minority Liverpool supporters.
Those who feel that they can read between the lines of the game; those who feel they don’t just ‘watch’ football, but ‘see’ football. Sort of like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix movies.
These ‘sorts’ are often classed as the ‘uber-fan’. They are derided as being holier-than-thou.
As far as people-watching goes, it makes for a hypnotic experience. Which is just as well, when the on-pitch entertainment isn’t up to scratch.
You argue amongst yourselves, while I reach for the popcorn.Finger-Cymbals at the Ready
It would have seemed outlandish to bill them as Gomez and Van Dijk, rather than Van Dijk and Gomez, a few short weeks ago.
Here we are though, throwing the two names together in a manner where the first of the two names mentioned is there because they were the most dominant of the duo in any given game.
While they are Gomez and Van Dijk today, they will be Van Dijk and Gomez again another day. The telling thing is, that neither Dejan Lovren or Joel Matip have ever been in danger of usurping Van Dijk in this respect.
Not once have I ever referred to a Van Dijk and Lovren or Van Dijk and Matip partnership as Lovren and Van Dijk, or Matip and Van Dijk.
Napoli would have won by a larger margin had it not been for Gomez and Van Dijk. Gomez is growing in stature with each passing game. He has taken the pressure off Van Dijk to be faultless.
Beyond a couple of saves from Alisson Becker, Gomez and Van Dijk were the primary sources of happiness in Naples.Numbing
There can be a vague sense of joy to be found in procuring a positive result when it’s completely undeserved.
Conceding the only goal of the game in the 90th minute was numbing, just as we were upon the cusp of claiming a point which we had no real right to make off with.
For those of a ‘violently happy’ nature this snatched away the line of thought that obtaining a result on an off-day is ‘the sign of a good team’ and played into the hands of those of a ‘comfortably numb’ disposition, for a resounding session of curmudgeoning.
A misfunctioning midfield, inclusive of the worrying early exit of Naby Keita, added to by ineffective performances from our usually excellent full-backs, left the forward three isolated and under-employed.
Miscalculations by Jurgen Klopp played its role in this defeat and he will kick himself for it.
Throwing on Daniel Sturridge so late was a bold statement to make and might well have been the psychological push Napoli required to go on and grab the winning goal.
An entirely forgettable evening which is in need of remembering, when heading into our next fixture.Manchester City, then
Sunday now looms large.
If Keita is unavailable, or simply not risked, then the team which struggled on the pitch at the San Paolo after his exit might just be the one which walks out at Anfield against Manchester City.
With no game for 13 days beyond Sunday, any ‘team management’ of Klopp’s line-up will revolve around who is fatigued and who is out of sorts.
Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri will be the most interested observers from the outside, looking in, feeling they might get a game.
This one is huge. This one is the scene-setter for the autumn ahead.
Two cup defeats have sandwiched a Premier League draw away at Chelsea. In cold black and white terms, we are three games without a win, but how good are we at ‘compartmentalising’ the tournaments we are playing in?
An interesting question or two will be answered on Sunday.