Liverpool’s run of form makes for miserable reading as of late, with two losses and two draws in their last four fixtures. Jurgen Klopp will have hoped for an easy fixture to get back on track with the team’s current form being so poor, but Leicester away is far from that. Having already played them once this week, albeit with a weakened side, Liverpool have to once again travel to the King Power to hopefully return with a better result than the 2-0 defeat on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup.
A positive for Liverpool is that the team is likely to be much stronger than the side that travelled midweek, with numerous key players expected to return to the squad. So, I’ve highlighted what I believe to be the key battles in the fixture, and if Liverpool win these then they’re likely to come home with a result.Firmino vs Morgan
Wes Morgan and Harry Maguire will have a different type of challenge on their hands come Saturday, as Roberto Firmino operates differently to the conventional striker. Firmino plays effectively as a false nine for Liverpool, and often drops deeper than a traditional striker to receive the ball in the space between the opposition’s midfield and defence. With Leicester playing a 4-4-2, Firmino’s withdrawn movement should be even more dangerous than usual, as Leicester’s two banks of four will naturally leave horizontal space to exploit between the lines.
Now, when Firmino makes these deeper movements as pictured below, Morgan and Maguire will have to address an immediate problem. They can either retain their position and let Firmino drop deeper but he’ll then have time and space to make a pass, or they can stick tight to him but consequently leave a gap behind them in their defensive line.
Morgan and Maguire are both fairly aggressive defenders, so if they choose to constantly follow Firmino deep and stay tight to him, I’d expect Salah or one of Klopp’s midfield runners to be darting into the gap they’ve left as a result.
If Firmino can manipulate the positioning of Leicester’s centre-backs with his intelligent movement, Liverpool are certain to cause problems and have a number of chances on goal.Matip vs Vardy/Iheanacho
This is arguably the most obvious battle ahead of the match, with Leicester perhaps being the best side in the league at direct counter-attacking and exploiting a high defensive line. Liverpool push forward with numbers which regularly leaves them vulnerable defensively to a fast transitioning attack, which is ideal for Leicester. So, whether it’s Vardy, Iheanacho or both playing on the weekend, they’re going to be excited at the prospect of playing against Liverpool’s defence.
Thus, Joel Matip is likely to have an eventful match, as his right-back and centre-back seem to be regularly changing. Matip will play alongside Lovren or Klavan, both of whom seem capable of making unforced mistakes that consequently put Liverpool on the back foot. Against Leicester, these mistakes cannot be afforded and maximum concentration will be needed throughout the match, as one long ball from anywhere on the pitch has the ability to create a clear-cut chance against this Liverpool side, and Leicester will no doubt test that. An example of this is demonstrated in the screenshot below, which was taken seconds before Vardy scored against Liverpool a few meetings ago. Although Matip isn’t playing here, this is exactly the type of situation that Vardy will want to find himself in, so Klopp has to ensure that doesn’t happen.
With Lovren or Klavan likely to struggle based on recent form, Matip will have to do a lot of the defensive sweeping up and assume responsibility, and his performance will certainly have to be better than at Anfield against Burnley. Hypothetically, Liverpool’s high line combined with Matip’s lack of pace should be a bloodbath when playing against a fast and aggressive striker such Jamie Vardy, but hopefully Liverpool’s concentration and adaptation will prevail.Salah vs Chilwell
This is an interesting one for Liverpool fans, especially since the club targeted Leicester’s Chilwell in the transfer market a few years ago. So far this season, Salah has been Liverpool’s main goal threat, as defences have struggled to cope with his poaching nature and direct movement into goal-scoring positions. With Christian Fuchs being out, Chilwell has fared quite well for Leicester so far, but the 20 year-old will have to be at his very best to deal with Liverpool’s attacking wide poacher.
Salah will look to drift throughout the 90 minutes, often into the channel between Chilwell and his nearest centre-back, Harry Maguire. For Chilwell to be able to manage Salah’s movement, he’ll have to remain concentrated for the entirety of the game. Any lapse in concentration from Chilwell may result in a goal-scoring chance for Salah which he’s likely to score, as we saw against Burnley at Anfield.
Also, in relation to Firmino’s key battle, Salah will have to remain alert and be on his toes to take advantage of any space that Firmino is able to create for him to attack. Leicester are no doubt going to play with a deep defensive block against Liverpool, so the space that Salah loves to feed on is likely to be scarce.
Liverpool crashed out of the League Cup with a 2-0 defeat against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The Reds dominated large parts of the game, but their wastefulness in front of goal was punished. Islam Slimani’s sensational second goal to add to Shinji Okazaki’s opener was enough for the Foxes to progress to the 4th round.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke made their first competitive starts for the Reds, in a disappointing outing at a stadium where Jurgen Klopp has tasted defeat for the third time in succession.
Here are the major talking points from the game:Profligate, wasteful
You can insert all the synonyms to those words here, and only that would best describe this Liverpool performance. Solanke, Philippe Coutinho, Andy Robertson, all had good chances to score in the first half, but the opportunities all went begging. Liverpool should have gone into the half-time break out of the hosts’ sight, but instead, it was goalless.Andy Robertson can cross a ball
And that is an understatement! It was a pity that there was no meaningful touch on the end of the many crosses that went in from the left-back in the first half. In the second half, maybe it was due to the absence of Coutinho, but Robertson never found as much space to work in, as he did before the break.Forget the defence – the midfield needs a real fix
Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum are starting midfielders for the club, and they just did not throw their weight behind the side. Wijnaldum, as is the norm in away games, was virtually invisible and Henderson was poor as well. The skipper’s passing is a growing concern, as below-par performances have been the order of the season so far for him.Danny Ward must be given more chances
Now that the League Cup campaign is over, Jurgen Klopp must find a way to strike a balance between his three goalkeepers so that they are given their opportunities. Ward’s performance was encouraging, despite the two goals that Liverpool conceded. He looked confident and his reaction to set-pieces looked very assured.Mentality
The recurring theme of the last week has been this side’s mentality. The capitulation at Manchester City was followed by an indifferent second half against Sevilla, and again, an indifferent half tonight. Whether it is the intensity not being replicated or that the heads drop after conceding, I don’t know, but both are equally concerning.Should we be so bothered about a loss in the League Cup?
Maybe not, but given the current scenario, Liverpool needed this win to lift the confidence of the players and the entire mood around the club. This loss means that we’ve blown an opportunity to get silverware, and it makes the league game at Leicester on Saturday and the Champions League game in Moscow all the more crucial.Welcome back Danny Ings
There was no real impact on the game from Ings, apart from one sight of goal that he had. But it is nice to have the striker back playing first-team football after two absolutely horrendous years for him. Hopefully, the Gods will now be kinder and he can get a run of games under his belt.
Competition: Carabao Cup 3rd Round
Venue: King Power Stadium
So, the Reds were back in action again tonight. September is a gruelling month, match-wise for most clubs, second only to December.
Liverpool have stayed true to their form of recent years by struggling in the immediate aftermath of the first international break of the season. A 5-0 trouncing at City was followed up with two home draws (2-2 v Sevilla, 1-1 v Burnley). Now, they begin a run of four away games in a row, including a trip to Moscow.
Klopp made eight changes from the starting eleven against Burnley. It was great to see Danny Ings’ name on the bench on his long road to recovery while it was surprising that Lazar Markovic was also named among the substitutes. Coutinho started again in his quest to get back to full match-fitness. He was joined up front with two summer signings, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke.
Leicester were all change as well. Jamie Vardy wasn’t in the squad while the likes of Mahrez, Okazaki and Iheanacho were on the bench.Teams
Leicester lineup – Hamer, Amartey, Dragovic, Morgan(c), Chilwell, Albrighton, Iborra, Ndidi, Gray, Slimani, Ulloa
Subs: Jakupovic, Iheanacho, Musa, Okazaki, Mahrez, Benalouane, Choudhury
Liverpool lineup – Ward, Flanagan, Gomez, Klavan, Robertson, Henderson(c), Grujic, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Coutinho
Subs: Karius, Milner, Moreno, Ings, Markovic, Woodburn, Alexander-ArnoldThe Action
Liverpool settled quickest at the King Power Stadium. They had the lion’s share of the possession in the first half, and even more so in the opening twenty minutes.
On five minutes, Grujic and Coutinho combined before the Brazilian midfielder released Robertson on the left. Robertson played in a great ball which found Oxlade-Chamberlain at the back post. His low effort was blocked brilliantly, however, by Ben Chilwell.
Danny Ward didn’t have much to deal with in the first half but in the ninth minute he did win a race to the ball with Slimani and cleared his lines with no problems whatsoever.
Coutinho was impressive in the first half. In the eleventh minute, he went on a mazy run just outside the Leicester box. Everyone seemed terrified of fouling him. Coutinho eventually got his shot off but Hamer beat it away at the near post.
Along with Coutinho, Andy Robertson was giving a good account of himself. His delivery really does have a consistency about it that Liverpool have lacked from a full-back for many years.
It was Coutinho again who had the next shot on goal after a tidy one-two with Solanke. Unfortunately, his finish was easy for Hamer to deal with once more.
There were more half-chances for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Solanke, while Coutinho had a free-kick which was miles off target.
Coutinho created a good chance for Solanke just before the half-time whistle with a delightfully chipped ball over the top of the Leicester defence. Just when Solanke needed a little ‘dink’ over the onrushing Hamer he caught it too heavy and his shot went over the bar.
Half-time: Leicester 0 – 0 Liverpool
Ben Woodburn came on to replace Philippe Coutinho at half-time.
At the start of the second half, Grujic gave away a foul giving Leicester a free-kick just outside the box and in a very dangerous area. Thankfully for the Reds, Gray’s shot was well over the bar.
Gray had another strike on goal ten minutes later after he ran at the Liverpool defence. This time his shot was dragged well wide of Ward’s goal, however.
Marko Grujic was booked for a rash challenge on Ndidi in the 57th minute. Leicester were notably having more a say in the game after the break. No surprise, really, considering Coutinho had gone off.
In the 65th minute, Leicester took the lead. Their corner was initially cleared by Grujic but the Foxes got it back into the box. The ball found its way to Iborra on the penalty spot. He cushioned a header back down for Okazaki. Okazaki’s shot was hit into the ground but it had enough in it to bounce past the diving Danny Ward. 1-0.
Two minutes later and Oxlade-Chamberlain pounced on some sloppy Leicester defending. He had a snapshot from the edge of the box go just over the bar.
After a quick free-kick in the 72nd minute, Woodburn made some space for a shot from wide on the left. He came so close with his effort. It went just over the bar at the far corner of the net.
A minute later, Danny Ings made his long-awaited return to first-team football after two forgettable years due to injuries. He replaced Wijnaldum as Klopp had to push for at least an equaliser in the last twenty minutes or so.
Ings almost got a flick onto a deflected cross in the 77th minute. Everyone else seemed to fall asleep but Ings anticipated where the ricocheted ball was heading. His quick thinking wasn’t rewarded as his lack of a connection let him down.
The next minute and it was all over. Leicester made it two through Slimani. He hit a bullet of a left-footed strike from just outside the box. Again, Danny Ward was powerless to prevent it from hitting the top corner of the net. 2-0.
Leicester were flying now. Gray had a great shot from the left just tipped around the post by Danny Ward.
Leicester held firm for the remaining minutes, although, in truth, it wasn’t quite clear where the Reds could get any creative spark from at that stage. In fairness to Ben Woodburn, he had looked lively since coming on but there wasn’t a lot of team cohesion to work with around him.
Grujic tried a wayward shot from long range in injury-time. That was about as close as Liverpool would come in the closing stages.
Final Score: Leicester 2 – 0 Liverpool
A lot has been made of Phillipe Coutinho’s return to the Liverpool side, following what has been a turbulent summer for our talismanic Brazilian. Coutinho eventually made his first start of the season against Burnley, as Liverpool were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw but whilst a lot of people have talked about what Coutinho brings to the table in an attacking sense, not so much has been said about how Coutinho could be a crucial element in shoring up Liverpool’s messy defence.
Now that’s not to say that off the ball Coutinho adds more defensively than Georginio Wijnaldum, although that’s definitely true. The general point that I’m making is not necessarily about defensive work off the ball, but defensive work on the ball.
One of Liverpool’s big defensive issues is a lack of control. With twenty minutes to go against Sevilla, and the Reds in control, they weren’t able to kill the game. They didn’t have anyone who could dictate the pace of the game, take the game and put it under their thumb. And whilst that hasn’t necessarily been Coutinho’s natural game when he’s been playing out on the left wing, he’s been more of a metronome when playing in the middle of the park, and he’s more than capable of playing that role.
Against Burnley, Coutinho had 97 touches, the second most in the Liverpool team, and made 73 passes, at an 82% accuracy. Whilst these stats are not Coutinho’s best and not quite where Liverpool will want him to be, coupled with 79 passes and 94 touches for Emre Can, it meant that Liverpool could dominate the midfield and control possession – resulting in the Reds having over 70% of possession.
This meant that Burnley’s chances were limited – the Clarets having just five shots and an xG of comfortably below one goal. Of course there remained huge question marks over the defence, but it’s also unfortunate for the Reds that Burnley took the one real chance that they were given, especially given that it wasn’t a particularly easy one.
Whilst the Burnley game isn’t necessarily the emblematic example of what Liverpool should be doing going forwards, it does betray a truth that the opposition can’t score goals without the ball. If Liverpool have more of the ball, it’s difficult for their opponents to consistently pressure a defence that looks leaky at the best of times.
But what Coutinho brings is more than just better possession of the ball. Liverpool have an inherent inability to close down games, which stems from a lack of calm and control. Coutinho is a figure who instils calm and is able to control a midfield in a way that Henderson and Can are not. He is the sort of player who can take 100 touches, make 100 passes, dictate play, keep possession ticking.
He can drop deep and offer a passing option, allowing the likes of Klavan and Matip an easy out ball under pressure, to avoid putting their team in trouble, or he can drive through a midfield to put the pressure back on the opposition. Whilst Coutinho’s tackling game isn’t necessarily strong, he’s also a good presser of the ball and can win it back high up the field.
The underlying point is that Liverpool have been crying out for a midfield general. Someone who can marshal the play, control the tempo of the game and shut down the opposition. Whilst Coutinho isn’t like Emre Can, who will disrupt the opposition tempo and consistently win the ball back, he is the kind of midfielder who can dictate the game, and keep the pressure off the defence.
Can is one player whose skillset compliments Coutinho’s quite well, which we saw against Burnley. The midfield looks more balanced with the pair playing together, and although Coutinho isn’t in a position to wholly relinquish Liverpool’s defensive issues, as Lovren and Klavan only need one opportunity to make a huge mess, he can in general improve Liverpool’s defensive play.
So we all know that bringing Coutinho into Liverpool’s midfield will improve our attacking play and give us an extra option, given that Phil is one of our best players. But maybe his reintroduction will also stop the Reds conceding quite as many goals.
Once hailed the ‘Scouse Cafu’ for his solid season in 2013/14, in which he played Left Back for the majority of the season, Jon Flanagan now finds himself Liverpool’s fourth choice Right Back. He earned himself a call-up to England’s World Cup team for his terrific campaign, albeit he only made an appearance coming off the bench in a warm-up friendly against Ecuador.
Just how has he found himself become so low in the pecking order?
Through no fault of his own, Flanno gathered two successive injuries which put him out for the 2014/15 season and the first half of the 2015/16 season. It was quite the misfortune giving his performances throughout the memorable season of 2013/14.
When he returned, Flanagan reminded the fans exactly why he had taken to their hearts. Raheem Sterling’s first return to Anfield wearing a sky blue shirt was welcomed with a crunching tackle from Flanno in the first minute that left Sterling in a heap on the floor, to Anfield’s pleasure. This is what every single fan in the stands and sat at home wanted and Flanagan, the boyhood Red on the pitch, carried out his duties as a player and as a fan. Winning the ball back and pummelling through a former ally and now a foe.
Despite being a crowd favourite, he was sent on-loan last season to newly promoted Burnley to regain his fitness and seek regular playing time to do this. Flanagan dwelled on whether this was the right choice and ultimately, he left for a year. Flanagan couldn’t capture his form there and only made 6 league appearances (half of them coming on as a substitute) and 3 appearances in the FA Cup.
Jon Flanagan played in every single pre-season match during the summer, although he never stood out as a star performer. Therefore, going into the season he found himself fourth choice Right Back. With Nathaniel Clyne injured for the foreseeable future, Trent Alexander-Arnold and the newly appointed England U21s captain, Joe Gomez, have been the favoured two choices in the Right Back position, with Flanagan nowhere to be seen near the starting 11.
With his injury problem seemingly not an issue for this moment in time, Flanagan knows now is his chance to make an impression in training. He will know more than anyone else if he is to save his Liverpool career then he needs to make a name for himself once again like he did four years ago.
The depth we have in this position will help especially with our Champions League campaign this year. Flanagan has not found himself surplus to requirements as such, hence there has not been any particular interest reported around the 24-year-old during the recent transfer window.
However, Joe Gomez could be used as a centre half this season too, meaning Flanagan would move up the ranks.
Also, Trent Alexander-Arnold could be utilised as more of an attacking option later on in the season giving his displays so far this season have illustrated how he is attacking minded and his defensive game needs work on. That being said, for an 18-year-old he has plenty of time to improve and it is expected that no player this young is the finished product. TAA has found himself playing central midfield in his days at the academy which shows his versatility. If there was an injury or suspension crisis in the midfield, Klopp would be foolish to rule him out. If this was to occur, cue Jon Flanagan to slot into the first 11.
At this moment in time, Flanno will presumably be used in the league cup and FA cup games. Nothing is to say that he won’t be used in the league if there is a big Champions league game coming up in the next few days or vice-versa.
On the other side of the defence, new signing Andy Robertson looks set to be the main man for the job. Alberto Moreno offers cover but it is without a doubt his defensive game is lacklustre as he finds himself out of position far too often. Flanagan has proved he can play on each flank of the defensive line. This makes him a good tool in the box, and it could possibly be an explanation as to why Klopp hasn’t moved him on this season.
That being said, this could be Flanno’s last throw of the dice before his ship sails out of the River Mersey.
This was always going to be a difficult game, especially considering Burnley’s solid away form this season. It ended up as a stalemate, with Liverpool dropping two points.
The key takeaways –Team News
Klopp was expected to ring in the changes for the game vs Burnley, and he confirmed the same during his pre-match press conference. So it was not surprising to see the number of changes, but the intriguing aspects were the return of Coutinho and a start for Sturridge. With Burnley showing the template of playing Liverpool last season, it was interesting to note the Coutinho and Sturridge combination as Liverpool needed to maximise whatever chances they would get. The other interesting aspect was the recall of Robertson with the re-emergence of Moreno.Abject Defending as usual
Another simple clearance missed by a centre-back, this time from Klavan which led to the opening goal. More worrying was the ease with which Ben Mee got his head onto two successive corners only to be denied by Matip and Mignolet in quick succession. The defence continues to be the biggest weakness and the constant rotation in the backline does not look to be helping matters.Liverpool and the Long Ball
The game was always going to be about how Liverpool would break down the organized Burnley defence. Resorting to long balls deep from defence or midfield would not have been the top-most option, but that is what Liverpool resorted to. The move looks to have been well researched/trained as the team got into great positions more than once, and it was ultimately a punt from Can that Salah expertly controlled and put it at the back of the net.Can as #6
Emre Can was deployed as the deepest midfielder as Henderson was given the day off. Fair to say he did have a mixed day as he had spells of solid play coupled with sloppy passing and positioning. More than once, he gave the ball away in dangerous areas and absolutely failed to track Arfield for Burnley’s goal.Mo can’t stop scoring
Incredulous as it may sound, there was actually a discussion on social media about Mo Salah and whether he should be dropped. That finish answered it loud and clear. Yet again, Salah was a constant menace throughout the game and ended up as Liverpool’s best player yet again.Liverpool not having the luck
Liverpool did not have the rub of the green this afternoon with a clear shout of penalty on Salah late on the second half and Solanke turning his shot off the bar. It was yet again one of those days where the last bit of execution coupled with fortune was missing.
Competition: Premier League
September has been a sobering month for Liverpool fans. Gone are the exuberant days of August and with them, our care-free attitude to just enjoying our Redmen attacking, scoring, and attacking again. September has opened our eyes to those defensive concerns which we knew were always there. In August, we were able to sweep those matters under the proverbial rug. September, however, seems to be that better friend. Unlike August, she won’t let you ignore your problems, pretending they’re not there. No, September calls attention to what you don’t want to see, asking for a full-blown intervention to be held. The challenge is in listening, though. Will September’s warning cries be heard?Teams
Liverpool lineup – Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Robertson, Can, Milner(c), Coutinho, Salah, Sturridge, Firmino
Subs: Karius, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke
Burnley lineup – Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee(c), Ward, Defour, Cork, Gudmundsson, Arfield, Brady, Wood
Subs: Legzdins, Long, Bardsley, Westwood, Walters, Barnes, VokesThe Action
Liverpool got down to business straight away this afternoon. Sturridge had the first shot on goal, an effort from around the penalty spot that was partially blocked by the defence. Nick Pope, deputising for the injured Tom Heaton, was grateful to get his first touch of the ball.
Andy Robertson was offering a great outlet on the left and his deliveries were causing early concerns for the Burnley defence.
There seemed to still be some early defensive nerves on the Liverpool side, remnants from the 2-2 draw with Sevilla. Joel Matip was looking shaky and was caught out in possession by Chris Wood.
Alexander-Arnold had a left-footed shot drag wide of the right-hand post in the 8th minute. Salah had a strong claim for a penalty in the 17th minute after Matip had strode forward from defence and put the wide-man through. Salah’s claims fell on deaf ears on this occasion.
In the 21st minute, Coutinho played a short ball back to Sturridge who then played in a deep cross to the back post where Salah got his head to it but could only put it over.
Burnley began to threaten shortly afterwards. A low cross from the left in the 26th minute was brilliantly dealt with by Andy Robertson who prevented Wood getting on the end of it.
However, a minute later and Chris Wood was involved in creating the opening goal. Robbie Brady won his header out wide against Alexander-Arnold and then Klavan and Matip failed to cope with Chris Wood. Wood’s knockdown made it to Arfield who finished it first time with his right foot. Mignolet could not do anything about it. 0-1.
The Reds made amends almost immediately. Emre Can played a great ball over the top which Salah got on the end of. Salah controlled it well and got his low shot away which Nick Pope couldn’t stop.
Liverpool looked good again after the equaliser and were once again camped in the Burnley half right up until the break. Indeed, Sturridge almost gave the Reds the lead in the 42nd minute when Coutinho played him in on the left. Sturridge’s strike hit the side-netting just outside the near post.
There was still time for Salah and Sturridge to manage another shot apiece but again, Pope was equal to both of them.
Half-time: Liverpool 1 – 1 Burnley
It was more of the same in the second half. Liverpool pushed and pushed but Burnley were as resilient as ever. There never seemed to be too much trouble on the break from Burnley, either, as they lacked any real pace in their midfield and attack.
Between the 55th and 61st minutes, Can, Milner, Sturridge, and Robertson all had shots on goal. Two were saved while Milner and Robertson saw their efforts go harmlessly wide.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Nick Pope was in inspired form today.
In the 73rd minute, Klavan made a vital interception at the other end as Arfield tried to play Chris Wood into the box. Matip and Klavan had to combine on a couple of occasions to deny Burnley during this short spell.
Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Firmino in the 79th minute and Solanke replaced Coutinho a minute later. Klopp was leaving it late before making any changes, again.
Solanke had a glancing header go wide after a good cross from Alexander-Arnold. Solanke really got stuck in after coming on and worked hard both going forward and coming back.
A minute later and it was Alexander-Arnold’s turn to be on the end of a cross. Milner did well on the left and chipped the ball in for the right-back to catch it with his left foot at the back post. Again, Pope was there to deny him.
In the 85th minute, Alexander-Arnold and Salah combined on the right-hand side of Burnley’s area. Salah looked to be clearly taken down in the box but Roger East didn’t give the penalty. The ball stayed in play and made its way into Solanke who had to try to pull the ball back from behind him in the six-yard box. His somewhat acrobatic effort crashed against the underside of the bar and down. Burnley scrambled it clear. It just wasn’t going to go in again for Liverpool.
Emre Can had one more shot on goal. His curling strike from outside the box seemed to be going wide, but just for good measure, Pope saved that one, too.
That was how it ended. September continues its tough love policy with Liverpool.Final Score: Liverpool 1 – 1 Burnley
An almighty thrashing at the Etihad Stadium was followed by a peculiar display at Anfield by Liverpool against Sevilla, where the Reds dominated for large parts of the game, only for sloppiness to cost them two points in the UEFA Champions League. On Saturday, it is back to Premier League action at Anfield as Liverpool welcome Sean Dyche’s Burnley.
Burnley were very lucky to win 1-0 against Crystal Palace last weekend, as the Eagles missed loads of chances in a game that they should have put to bed. Burnley are unbeaten away from home this season, following up their stunning opening day win at Stamford Bridge with a late equalizer at Wembley to take a point against Tottenham Hotspur.
But there must be no excuses for the Reds on Saturday. The optimism leading up to the international break has been wiped out by two shambolic defensive displays and three points must be the only thing on the agenda on Saturday.
Sadio Mane will serve the first of his three-game ban for the red card he picked up against City, and that should mean a first Premier League start of the season for Philippe Coutinho, who was welcomed back to the fold by Anfield on Wednesday.
The defence is a concern, but the Reds’ attack should be confident of putting Burnley to the sword.
Here are the key individual battles that will decide the game.ROBERTO FIRMINO v JAMES TARKOWSKI
Tarkowski had a sensational game against Palace, with several last-ditch interventions ensuring that the Clarets’ lead was not under any threat. But he will face a different threat to the one Christian Benteke posed last week.
Roberto Firmino had a sensational first half against Sevilla, which was blighted by him hitting the post from 12 yards out. But Firmino will be up for redemption on Saturday.
Tarkowski and his partner Ben Mee are strong in the air, but that is not how Liverpool will play. Firmino will move all over the pitch, and that is a challenge that should be a mammoth one for Tarkowski. With the running of Mo Salah, and maybe Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain beyond the defence, it is a mouth-watering prospect for Firmino as he will look to drop deep and create space for the wide players to get in behind the Burnley defence. That will be crucial as Burnley are likely to sit back, absorb the pressure and look to hit Liverpool on the break.
Firmino’s tears at full-time on Wednesday told a story about the man that he is, and he will be raring to go. He will believe that his penalty miss cost the Reds two points in Europe, and redemption will be sweet if he can make the Anfield net bulge and get the Reds back to winning ways, and in the process, getting a much-needed three points, as the Reds look to stay in touch with the Manchester clubs, who have flown off the blocks.MOHAMED SALAH v STEPHEN WARD
Ward’s season got off to the best possible start with an absolutely stunning goal at Stamford Bridge, to set Burnley on their way to victory on the opening day. Salah hasn’t been too shabby, himself.
The Egyptian already has four goals to his name in all competitions and his pace will be a nightmare for any defender. With Mane out too, that will be Liverpool’s outlet and the main weapon against a defence that will sit deep.
Salah’s movement, in particular, has been a joy to watch and it will once again be tested fully by Burnley’s defensive discipline. Dyche knows to set his side up for big games like this and his players are good at absorbing the pressure from what is thrown at them. Given that, it would make sense for Klopp to start Trent Alexander-Arnold who definitely offers more going forward than Joe Gomez does, and that will be crucial. With Alexander-Arnold running on the outside, it would give Salah more room to manoeuvre and maybe a little more space too.
He did get a lucky goal against Sevilla, but if Salah’s finishing is anything like it was at the Etihad, a frustrating afternoon could ensue. With the abilities that he possesses, Salah should be scoring a minimum of 25 goals every season, and if his finishing is up to scratch, there is little to no doubt that he will.DEJAN LOVREN v CHRIS WOOD
What can be said about Lovren that already hasn’t been said? How does he make such schoolboy errors with such alarming regularity? On Saturday, as he looks to atone for that calamitous error early against Sevilla, he will face a brute of a man in the New Zealander.
Wood is six-and-a-half feet tall, and has already found his goalscoring touch for Burnley, scoring their only goals in their last two league games, against Spurs and Palace.
This will be an important game for Lovren. Burnley won’t offer too much in an attacking sense, therefore his concentration will be paramount so that when the attack does come, he is alert to repel it.
Set-pieces will be a huge area of opportunity for the Clarets and with Wood’s height, he can cause damage from those situations.
Note: If Ragnar Klavan does play and not Lovren, the same things would still apply for the Estonian, who got savaged by the Man City attackers last weekend.
Competition: Champions League Group Stage
Date: 13th September 2017
The Champions League returned to Anfield tonight for the first time since 2014. We’ve won it five times, you know? Yes, Liverpool have won Europe’s premier club competition five times in their illustrious history. They didn’t do themselves proud in their last showing three years ago. Now was the chance to put that right, starting tonight.Teams
Liverpool lineup – Karius, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Subs: Mignolet, Klavan, Robertson, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coutinho, Sturridge
Sevilla lineup – Sergio Rico, Mercado, Pareja, Kjaer, Escudero, Pizarro, N’Zonzi, Banega, Navas, Ben Yedder, Correa
Subs: Soria, Corchia, Daniel Carrico, Krohn-Dehli, Sarabia, Muriel, VazquezThe Action
Anfield was hopping and it was refreshing to hear the Champions League anthem at the stadium again. An atmosphere such as tonight’s was bound to get the team going.
It took only one minute for Liverpool to register their first strike on goal. Good work on the left from Mané was followed by a pass inside to Wijnaldum. Gini laid the ball off nicely for Emre Can who was about 25 yards out. Can tried to place his effort from that distance and it ended up being a comfortable save for Rico.
In the fifth minute, Escudero played in a good low cross from the left which should’ve been cut out by Dejan Lovren. Somehow, Lovren let it go under his boot and Ben Yedder was there to finish it from close range. There is an argument that Moreno could’ve been better positioned defensively to deal with the cross if it came in. Sevilla made the Reds pay with their first attack of the game. 0-1.
Liverpool responded very well to going one down. Wijnaldum had a shot within two minutes of their goal. His strike took a wicked deflection off a defender and went just wide of Sergio Rico’s right-hand post.
Two minutes later, Salah broke at speed (strange, that!) down the right. He pulled the ball back to Mané who put in a first-time shot which was well saved by Rico. Henderson swung in an excellent cross from the resulting corner and Bobby Firmino got his head to it. His header went just over.
In the 21st minute, Liverpool equalised. There was some great work on the left from Moreno who played a low ball into Henderson. The captain hit a first-time return pass back to Moreno, sending him to the byline inside the box. Moreno accelerated, made the ball and pulled back a great low cross which Firmino turned into the net. Nothing Sergio Rico could do about that. 1-1.
Emre Can almost put Liverpool in front two minutes after that. His low shot from inside the box was just dragged wide of Rico’s left post. Liverpool were really upping the tempo now and seemed to be enjoying it.
In the 36th minute, Salah ran into trouble after cutting in from the right. He lost the ball but was extremely impressive in his desire to win it back from N’Zonzi. He got the ball back from the big midfielder, turned and got a shot away. His long-range shot deflected off of Kjaer, looping over Rico. Salah’s desire created that goal from nothing! 2-1 Liverpool.
Moreno was booked on 39 minutes for a clumsy challenge on Jesus Navas. Liverpool were still looking good going forward.
Three minutes later and the referee was blowing the whistle in Liverpool’s favour. Tricky play from Mané on the left had Pareja in all sorts of trouble. There could’ve been a claim for handball but it didn’t matter as Pareja ended up grabbing Mané around the waist in trying to control him. Mané and Pareja both went to ground and Liverpool were awarded the penalty.
Firmino stepped up to take the penalty. He sent Sergio Rico the wrong way but his shot hit the outside of the right-hand post and deflected away from the goal.
Half-time: Liverpool 2 – 1 Sevilla
The second half started with much the same tempo that the first half was played in. Having said that it was the 63rd minute before any shot of note was taken. Firmino got a low strike away from outside the box. It had Rico diving but went wide of the left post.
A minute later and Joe Gomez was booked for pulling back Correa.
In the following couple of minutes, both Mané and Wijnaldum had shots go close but nothing to extend the lead.
Luis Muriel had come on as a substitute for Sevilla. His introduction saw his pace cause all sorts of new problems for the Reds’ shaky defence.
In the 72nd minute, it was Muriel who put Correa through the centre, one former Sampdoria man to another. Correa’s finish was top class, curling the ball around Karius and just inside the post. 2-2.
Liverpool’s Coutinho made his long-awaited return for Emre Can on 75 minutes. Sturridge replaced Mané in the 83rd minute and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for Salah in the 85th minute to make his Anfield and European debut for Liverpool.
The new introductions could not conjure anything of note in the attacking third. In fact, it was Luis Muriel who nearly snatched a winner for Sevilla in the 93rd minute. He outmuscled Joe Gomez to win a long ball on the break. He put his shot wide of Karius’ near post when he really should have hit the target.
Joe Gomez endured further torment as he received a second yellow card in the final minute of injury time.
It finished 2-2. Liverpool’s defensive woes continue. There is a lot of work to be done at that end of the pitch. The question is, will it be done?Final Score: Liverpool 2 – 2 Sevilla
Venue – Anfield
Referee – Danny Makkelie (Netherlands)
Date & Time – 13th September 2017 @ 19:45 BST
It’s amazing the effect that football can have on you. In the aftermath of Saturday’s collapse at the Etihad Stadium, it has taken me the best part of two days to finally gather myself enough to write this match preview. I guess “deflated” is the best way to describe how I’ve felt since Sadio Mané collided with Ederson and the rest of the team seemed to lose their collective shit right before our eyes. Yes – it’s tough going a man down and City are a great attacking unit – but 5-0?! Come on!!
I’m sure, like us fans, the Reds will be hurting. Their professional pride has been dented. No team likes to let that kind of rot set in for any longer than necessary. That’s why a European night at Anfield against a team with whom we have a relatively recent score to settle may just be the tonic that Klopp and co need.
The La Liga side, Sevilla, are now under their second different coach since Unai Emery left for PSG after overseeing the 3-1 victory for his team in that 2016 Europa League final. However, they are still very capable of posing many problems for opponents, as they proved by finishing 4th in the Spanish top tier last season. Jorge Sampaoli had replaced Emery but he himself was succeeded by fellow Argentine, Eduardo Berizzo, during the past summer. They have only five players remaining at the club from the eleven that started that final 15 months ago. Most notably, their goalscorers that night, Kevin Gameiro and Coke are now at Atletico Madrid and Schalke, respectively.Form
Liverpool had started the season in good form. A couple of run-of-the-mill results against Watford and Crystal Palace were complemented by outstanding attacking displays against both Hoffenheim and Arsenal. Last Saturday, however, was a different story. City could have won by more than five as Liverpool seemed to not have any readily available answer for going a man down in the first half. Wednesday night is the chance for Klopp and his men to get back on track.
Sevilla have taken seven from nine available points to start this season off in La Liga. Like Liverpool, Sevilla also came through the playoff round to get to the group stages. They defeated Turkish outfit, Istanbul Basaksehir, 4-3 on aggregate.
Jesus Navas and Nolito, both formerly of Manchester City, are now playing for Sevilla. Steven N’Zonzi will also be a familiar face to Liverpool fans from his time at Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City.Team News
There have been reports in the last week or so that Loris Karius will serve as Klopp’s first-choice between the sticks for the Champions League this season. It will be interesting to see if this is indeed the case on Wednesday night. Sadio Mané’s suspension for the red card last weekend will only affect games in English competition so he will be available for Klopp’s selection.Nathaniel Clyne was not registered for the Champions League group stages due to an ongoing back problem. Danny Ings and Adam Lallana are also out due to injury.
Philippe Coutinho may well return to the first-team setup for this game. I would expect him to make the bench for this game.
Klopp will most likely rotate some of the starting eleven and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gomez, Robertson, Lovren, and Milner come into the team.
Sevilla have David Soria (goalkeeper in the 2016 EL final), Nolita, Johannes Geis and Nico Pareja on their injury list. Berizzo seems to favour a 4-1-4-1 shape for Sevilla, with Wissam Ben Yedder up front.Predicted XIs
Liverpool XI – Karius, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Sevilla XI – Rico, Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero, N’Zonzi, Navas, Ganso, Banega, Sarabia, YedderWhen they last met
The 3-1 victory for Sevilla in the 2016 Europa League final is the only meeting there has ever been between these sides.Prediction
It’s always hard to predict the outcome of a game immediately following a bizarre result like last Saturday’s 5-0 destruction in Manchester. However, I think the fact that it is a home match where the Reds fans can help their team to heal their wounds just about swings it in Liverpool’s favour for me.Liverpool 2 – 1 Sevilla
Liverpool were torn from pillar to post for around an hour after Sadio Mane’s red card, losing 5-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
A goal from Sergio Aguero had broken the deadlock in a game that looked as if it could swing either way until Mane’s right boot swung into the jaw of Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson.
From then on, it was one-way traffic. Say what you want about how Klopp set his tactics up, whether Liverpool worked hard enough, but City were majestic. Cutting Liverpool apart, mainly through the talents of Kevin de Bruyne, braces for Jesus and Sane completed the rout.
Other than tears, tears and more tears, what was there for Liverpool fans to observe?A controversial red card
By the letter of the law, Jon Moss was probably right to dismiss Sadio Mane in the first-half. Stretching to get on the end of a lofted ball from Matip, a goalscoring chance for Liverpool turned into a game-changer for City. It is dangerous, evidenced by Ederson being stretchered off, but Mane only has his eyes on the ball.
For many red tinted glasses, it’s a wrong decision, but Moss will sip a glass of red tonight safely in the knowledge that those above him will approve of his decision. Mane will feel aggrieved, wondering whether Ederson would have been sent off had he clattered into the Senegalese international, had Liverpool tapped the ball in the meanwhile.Why things may need to be taken with a pinch of salt
Liverpool were due a loss against a top six side. Despite such a stellar record against our rivals under Klopp, sometimes you lose football matches to good teams. The goal difference takes a hit, but it’s better to lose one game 5-0 than five games 1-0, the saying goes. Manchester City away is a difficult fixture. The fashion of the defeat makes is sickly but many teams will walk away from the Etihad without a point.
Mane’s suspension will also be annoying, but after getting four reds for Southampton, it would have been surprising if he’d gone his whole Liverpool career without getting his marching orders. He could be missing worse games too, only two league games – Burnley and Leicester.
It’s bad, it feels bad, but it won’t define Liverpool’s season.Praise for Liverpool’s ‘keeper
There were lots of awful performances out there after the red card. Some players weren’t terrible though. Firmino did his best alone up top, Moreno was alright at left-back. Simon Mignolet was Liverpool’s best.
A string of fine saves coming virtually in tandem with goals that he could do nothing about, the Belgian conceded five for the second time in his Liverpool career but can leave Manchester with his head held a little higher than the rest. One particularly impressive stop came from a shot off his own player, Mignolet diving quickly to his right to keep Joel Matip out.Where does this leave the Reds?
Battered and bruised perhaps isn’t the word, more strangled to exhaustion by a boa-constrictor of a football team. However, Liverpool are back in the Champions League on Wednesday, Anfield under the lights. They’ll have Mane too, and a chance to put things right against Burnley in a week’s time.
Date: 9th September 2017
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Competition: Premier LeagueTeams
Manchester City lineup –
Ederson, Danilo, Stones, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Walker, De Bruyne, David Silva, Mendy, Aguero, Gabriel Jesus
Subs: Bravo, Gundogan, Mangala, Delph, Sané, Bernardo Silva, Foden
Liverpool lineup –
Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Subs: Karius, Lovren, Sturridge, Solanke, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner, GomezThe Action
The Etihad Stadium was the scene for today’s big game between Manchester City and Liverpool. It was bright and wet – perfect weather for some spills and slips.
City went with three at the back, even without the missing Vincent Kompany who had picked up a knock over the international break. Gundogan made the bench – another big step on his comeback journey from serious injury. Aguero returned to the starting eleven, partnering Gabriel Jesus up front.
Klopp, surprisingly, went with Klavan in defence instead of Lovren. Alexander-Arnold and Moreno were the full-backs. Liverpool’s midfield and attack were as expected.
Liverpool did the early pressing with Salah and Mané looking to exploit the flanks outside City’s back three. It was City who got the first shot away, however. De Bruyne, on seven minutes, broke at speed and had a low shot from 25 yards.
Six minutes later and Fernandinho had a similar effort touched around the post by Mignolet.
Liverpool were struggling to create anything clear-cut so far. Some neat interplay between Mané and Moreno on the left ended with a wasted final ball from the Senegalese wide-man.
Shortly afterwards, Alexander-Arnold laid a nice ball off for Henderson. The captain whipped in one of his trademark curling balls to space at the back post. It found Firmino but he could only get a weak touch on it and the ball went straight to Ederson in the City goal.
After 18 minutes Emre Can worked some space for himself and got the strike away but it was saved easily by Ederson.
Then Alexander-Arnold was booked after some lazy play from the youngster allowed De Bruyne to dispossess him. Alexander-Arnold had to foul the Belgian playmaker to stop him.
Salah was making some promising runs on the right, giving Otamendi a tough time, but ultimately his final ball was lacking.
De Bruyne was beginning to dominate the game in the middle now. In the 25th minute, he played an inch-perfect ball for Aguero, splitting Matip and Klavan. Aguero took the ball around the onrushing Mignolet and rolled his finish into the empty net. 1-0 to City.
Mané made a great run three minutes after the opening goal. He was eventually fouled by Stones right on the edge of City’s box. Emre Can tried his luck from the resulting free-kick but he put his shot well wide of Ederson’s left-hand post.
Salah had a great chance to equalise in the 31st minute. Mané put him through one-on-one but he didn’t aim his shot far enough in the corner and Ederson got down to it well.
Gabriel Jesus nearly benefited from some poor play by Klavan. The Estonian defender got caught in possession by Jesus and his final effort was stopped by Mignolet.
The Belgian stopper was again called into action when John Stones got a low strike away from the resulting corner.
The game was turned on its head in the 37th minute. A race for a 50-50 ball between Mané and Ederson saw Mané’s high challenge result in a possible sickening injury for the City goalkeeper. Mané was given a straight red card by Jon Moss. Ederson was eventually stretchered off and replaced by Claudio Bravo.
The Ederson injury resulted in eight minutes of added time at the end of the first half. In the sixth minute of that added time City added a second goal. De Bruyne was again the provider. From the left, he delivered a great cross which was met by the head of Gabriel Jesus. Mignolet couldn’t stop this one. 2-0 to City.
Unfortunately, it was really beginning to look like the second half would need to be a damage limitation exercise for the ten remaining Red men.Half-time: Manchester City 2 – 0 Liverpool
Oxlade-Chamberlain came on during the break for Salah in what was a very tough situation for the new signing to make his first appearance for the Reds. Klopp tried to change things up with the ten men available. Can was moved back into the centre of a back three, between Matip and Klavan. It didn’t work.
Fernandinho released Aguero after 53 minutes with a great through ball. Aguero unselfishly teed up Gabriel Jesus to his left when through on Mignolet. Jesus put it in with ease. 3-0 to City. This was very tough to watch.
For most of the second half, it was a case of keeping the score to a minimum. Liverpool just couldn’t create anything at the other end without the threat of Salah and Mané. Milner replaced the practically invisible Wijnaldum and ten minutes later Firmino was subbed for Solanke.
Matip had a deflected clearance head goalwards in the 72nd minute but Mignolet produced a great reaction save.
In the 77th minute, Leroy Sané made it four after replacing Gabriel Jesus. Mendy put in a low cross from the left and Sané’s first-time finish at the near post left Mignolet helpless. 4-0 to City.
Emre Can was booked for a foul borne out of frustration on Sergio Aguero in the 80th minute.
Aguero almost made it five in the 87th minute but Mignolet made another great save after the Argentinian got on the end of another De Bruyne ball.
Sané had time to get his second goal. A great left-footed strike from outside the box, curling into the top corner. Again, there wasn’t anything Mignolet could have done. 5-0 to City.
That was it. A terrible day for the Reds who had started positively and were very much in the game up until the red card decision.
Next up, it’s Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday night in the Champions League. A chance to bounce back for the Reds. It will be very interesting to see if they do.Final Score: Manchester City 5 – 0 Liverpool
The transfer window is over, the international break is over. It is now time for some real football. And what a way to kick the Premier League back off, as Liverpool travel to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp will face off for the third time in English football, with Liverpool winning 1-0 at Anfield last season before a 1-1 draw at the Etihad.
For Liverpool, the team news will be interesting. It is expected that new signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be on the bench, but definitely of more importance is a little Brazilian who wears no. 10 on his back. Klopp needs to assess very quickly and come up with an answer to the Coutinho conundrum.
For City, Raheem Sterling is suspended after the ridiculous red card he received after scoring an injury time winner in their last game at Bournemouth. Kyle Walker is back though, having served a one-game ban for his red card against Everton.
Here are key individual battles that will decide the outcome of the game.
Kevin De Bruyne v Emre Can
Can has slowly but surely begun to leave his mark on games from the midfield. It is clear that he will not be the no. 6 in Klopp’s system as long as Jordan Henderson is fit, but given that he has been playing so well in this box-to-box role, why would anyone want to shift him out of his current position?
In the last two games before the international break, there was enough glimpse of what Can is capable of. His driving runs from midfield were the catalyst to barnstorming attacking performances. There was pace, there was power, there was brilliant ball-carrying ability and most importantly, there was purpose. Far too often, Can has been guilty of holding the ball for far too long and letting go of promising situations but there does not seem to be too much of that happening anymore.
He will be faced on Saturday by a different kind of challenge to what he has faced so far in the season. Even though the common perception is that De Bruyne is an attacking midfielder, Guardiola has used him in a slightly withdrawn role in all three of their Premier League games so far this season. With Fernandinho the only recognized defensive midfielder in the City XI that has taken to the field in the first three games, there is a potential weakness that Can and Gini Wijnaldum can exploit.
City have terrific technicians in the middle of the park, but can they do their defensive duties as well as an Ilkay Gundogan would, if he was fit? That is why, for Can, he has to push De Bruyne deep with whatever opportunity he gets. This is two targets hit with one arrow.
Can bombing forward would mean that Liverpool would be on the front foot, and De Bruyne in a deeper position would mean that he is in a less likely space to dictate the flow of the game from.
Kyle Walker v Sadio Mane
Walker’s home debut for the Citizens didn’t go as planned, as he got sent off for picking up two yellow cards in quick succession. What faces him on Saturday is the toughest examination for a right-back in the Premier League. In the form that Sadio Mane is in, one can be assured that a moment’s indecision from the defender will be punished with unerring disdain.
One massive advantage for Walker would be that he is mighty quick as well, meaning he is capable of matching Mane stride for stride. That is where Alberto Moreno will come into play. If Moreno can play in the City half of the pitch and keep Walker penned in, it would mean that Mane would get more happiness.
If Walker is kept penned in his own half, it would mean that he would have to defend resolutely. Whether he can do that without losing concentration for a whole game remains to be seen. Walker’s biggest strength in defensive areas has been his ability to use his pace and get back to recover situations. Not so much, defend what is in front of him.
Liverpool’s Senegalese star has been a man possessed from the start of this season. He is becoming ruthless as well, as 3 goals in as many Premier League games show. Mane is enjoying playing his football alongside Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino in Liverpool’s attacking trident and the three just seem to always be getting the best out of each other. May that continue on Saturday, please, gentlemen?
Sergio Aguero v Dejan Lovren
Sergio Aguero loves playing against Liverpool. Sergio Aguero loves playing against Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. He always seem to score against us. So as usual, our centre-backs will have their hands full with the little Argentine.
Aguero, lately, has been a little wasteful. But he has still scored a fair few goals. That is what he will do. He gets into so many good positions with his movement that he will always have multiple chances to score in a game. For a striker of his calibre, it is only natural that he gets a goal or two in every game.
So what do you do when you defend against Aguero? Ensure that you concentrate for the entire 90 minutes and don’t give him a sniff. What has Dejan Lovren tended to do in most games so far this season? Switch off for a moment or two of madness per game. If that happens on Saturday, one can be assured that there will be no mercy from Aguero. Or Gabriel Jesus. Or Leroy Sane. Or any of the two Silvas. City’s forward line is so full-to-the-brim with quality that they could play any combination and still destroy any team on their day.
For Lovren, it will be important that he communicates. Any manager who has seen the Reds recently will know the left-sided area is where we’re at our weakest. So Lovren and Moreno need to ensure that there are no holes left, there is no gaping space in between them, just because they don’t communicate with each other.
All in all, we’re set for a fantastic game of football. There is really no other way that either manager knows. A repeat of last year’s game from the Etihad with a slightly happier set of away fans this time would be nice.
Most of the question marks over Liverpool’s ability to challenge for titles this season have been over their squad depth – and rightly so. But this implies that there is a general consensus amongst Liverpool fans that in general the starting team is good enough to compete with the very elite – at least at Premier League level. However this season, that hypothesis hasn’t been put to the test. Until now.
That’s not to say that Liverpool haven’t been brilliant so far, because they have. But Arsenal are a shadow of their former selves and whilst Hoffenheim are a strong European outfit, they’d be highly unlikely to challenge for the Premier League title. That’s also not to say that Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp don’t have a history of performing well against the top six; there is ample evidence that this Liverpool side are good enough to beat any of the top teams.
But the fact remains that in its current iteration, Liverpool’s first team remains largely unproven as a side good enough to win the Premier League – at least compared to the other main title contenders. And that brings us to this game against Manchester City.
Man City are the current title favourites and rightly so. They have bolstered an already strong squad with three genuinely excellent full-backs and a potentially brilliant goalkeeper – essentially shoring up the weakest areas of their team – and they’ve also brought in another brilliant attacking option in Bernardo Silva, whilst the extremely talented Gabriel Jesus will have his first full season in the Premier League.
So how does this Liverpool side, at its best, compare to Manchester City’s best side? Well that’s the tantalising question. Last season, the two sides met in two very different games. At Anfield, Liverpool scored early and successfully killed the game against a lacklustre City attack. Neither team were at their best, but the Reds took the honours. But at the Etihad, they produced arguably Liverpool’s best game of the season from a neutral perspective, as both teams missed hat-loads of chances in an enthralling 1-1 draw.
So going into Liverpool’s toughest game of the season so far, a trip to the Etihad, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that the teams will be reasonably evenly matched. City have improved their squad on paper markedly, but will take a bit of time to get their new signings properly integrated. Liverpool have made slightly less improvements to their starting line-up (especially if Phil Coutinho doesn’t start), but are in better form and have more consistency in their current side.
But if both teams turn up, there’s absolutely no telling what could happen. Both Liverpool and Man City play with a high tempo, they cover the most distance as a team and they press hard. The levels of pace, energy and talent on show could be astronomic, and both teams have game-changing in their ranks, but are capable of being highly suspect defensively.
So this game against Man City is a perfect early season litmus test for Liverpool’s starting eleven. Whilst it’s unlikely they will be at 100% strength without Clyne, Lallana and possibly Coutinho, the Reds will likely be fielding somewhere very close to their best side, with Man City doing similarly. So this will be an interesting, and hopefully informative early season litmus test for exactly how good this Liverpool side has the potential to be.
If they Liverpool comfortably or indeed lose comfortably, then it will be harder to gauge exactly where they are at without analysis, but there will at the least be reasons behind the key failings of either side. If the game is as tense and evenly matched as the last two games between these sides, be that an open and entertaining one or a tight, congested one, then we will be able to learn more from the eventual outcome, and if nothing else get a gauge on how Liverpool shape up compared to the team many are touting to romp the title this year.
Personally, I suspect that if both teams play near their best then this will be a fascinating and brilliant game of football, but ultimately if I’m honest one I don’t expect Liverpool to win. I would happily take a draw at this stage, but equally I think that there’s every chance that it’s a game the Reds can win, and they have a fantastic recent record against City.
Whilst there are undoubtedly a large number of factors in which teams are well set up to win tournaments, and whilst it’s impossible to extrapolate a whole season from one game, the fact nevertheless remains that this game has the potential to be the first big test of the season for Jürgen Klopp’s side. Let’s hope that they pass it with flying colours.
Venue – Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee – Jonathan Moss
Date & Time – Saturday, September 9th @ 12:30 BST
So, the international break is over and ‘real’ football returns this Saturday. Liverpool kick the Premier League weekend off in the early game at Manchester City. This game has often turned out to be one of the more exciting Premier League fixtures in recent years and Saturday’s encounter promises more of the same.Form
Both sides have seven points from their opening three games. City’s two wins have been on the road and they drew their only home game 1-1 against Everton. Guardiola’s men snatched a 97th-minute winner at Bournemouth in their last outing.
This is Liverpool’s first Premier League away game since the 3-3 draw with Watford on the opening day. Since then, they’ve qualified for the Champions League group stages as well as defeating bogey-team, Crystal Palace, at Anfield, followed by the 4-0 destruction of Arsenal.Team News
Both teams seem to have ‘escaped’ the international break relatively unscathed, injury-wise.
Guardiola’s City are still missing Gundogan. The midfielder is out injured and with no realistic return date, yet. Vincent Kompany has a slight knock but I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t start. Up front, they started with Gabriel Jesus at Bournemouth. Aguero didn’t feature in either of Argentina’s qualifiers during the last week so he should come back into the first eleven on Saturday. Aguero replacing Gabriel Jesus is the only change I predict Guardiola to make to City’s starting eleven from their Bournemouth trip.
Now that the transfer window has closed, Klopp needs to make some decisions. How will he reintroduce Coutinho to the side? Coutinho came on as a substitute in each of Brazil’s two qualifiers, scoring in one. All man-management issues aside, Coutinho will be lacking match fitness. Klopp will most likely give him a place on the bench and I’m sure we’ll see him at some stage on Saturday. Lallana is still out and will be until October or November.
We heard the surprising news this week that Nathaniel Clyne has been left out of Liverpool’s Champions League squad due to his back injury. He is obviously a lot farther away from full fitness than first predicted. Will it be Alexander-Arnold or Joe Gomez at right-back? On the other flank, will it be Moreno or Robertson?
Mignolet should return in goals after Karius’ shaky on-the-ball antics against Arsenal. Klopp maintained after the game that Mignolet was still Liverpool’s absolute number one for the moment.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is registered and available but will probably be on the bench for now.Predicted XIs
Manchester City XI – Ederson, Danilo, Kompany, Otamendi, Mendy, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling
Liverpool XI – Mignolet, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, ManéWhen they last met
The corresponding fixture last season was a 1-1 draw in March. Milner, up against his previous employers, gave the Reds the lead from the spot early in the second half. Aguero equalised less than 20 minutes later.
The game at Anfield was a 1-0 win for Liverpool on New Year’s Eve, with the only goal coming from a wonderful Gini Wijnaldum header after seven minutes.
The Etihad Stadium was, of course, the venue for one of this Liverpool team’s first powerhouse performances. Just over a month after Klopp arrived to take control, he brought his Reds to Manchester and the Gegenpressing really made the difference that day as Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners. More of the same this weekend, please!Prediction
After the start to the season we’ve experienced, it’s hard not to be confident as a Liverpool fan. However, City are slowly gelling into the kind of team that could well be brushing opponents aside come the new year.
City haven’t lost any of their last 13 home league games and they’ve managed to score at least two goals in seven of their last eight league games, also.
A stat that may surprise many is that Liverpool have kept six clean sheets in their last seven Premier League matches. The 3-3 draw at Watford last month was the only occasion the Reds conceded in the league since their 1-2 home defeat to Palace in April.
I can’t see any way that this Red army will lose at the moment but it’s the toughest team they’ve come up against, so far.
I’m going for another goal-fest in an exciting 2-2 draw (really hoping Bobby scores at least one so we can see what new celebration he’s been working on!).
Manchester City 2 – 2 Liverpool
Another day, another signing.
Chamberlain looked destined to join Chelsea a few days ago after Arsenal agreed on a fee in the region of £40million for the midfielder. However, with his heart firmly set on a move to Liverpool, the 24-year-old snubbed the Premier League Champions, and 220k per week, to link up with Jurgen Klopp.
Admittedly, there’s been a mixed bag in terms of reaction, with the club’s pursuit of Thomas Lemar gauging more interest, but signing Oxlade-Chamberlain this summer makes perfect sense for the Reds.
Having fended off Hoffenheim with relative ease in the Champions League playoffs, Liverpool must contend with a far more rigour campaign in four competitions. Naturally, that demands a certain depth from the squad that was lacking last season.
Chamberlain fits that role to a tee.
Starting off as a winger, he has gone on to play in central midfield and right-wing back, occupying eight different positions during the 2016/17 season including defensive midfield, left and right midfield, attacking midfield and either wing.
Given Liverpool need players who are flexible and adaptable to their style of play, have a rigour work-ethic and diligence both in and out of possession, the 24-year-old ticks all the boxes for Jurgen Klopp. He embodies the type of player that the Liverpool system depends on.
Not to mention he’s an ex-Saints player.
In terms of creativity, Chamberlain has proved to be a useful tool in unlocking a packed defence with incisive, forward-thinking passes between the line of defence and midfield – a welcome trait in the Liverpool camp.
For you statistics lovers, Chamberlain created three chances in four Premier League games, registering two assists in the wingback role. His movement and creativity would be a welcome addition to a Liverpool attack already purring with talent in Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
In terms of where he fits into the squad, the former Arsenal man will likely find himself used as a winger or option through the middle. Liverpool have a relatively thin squad for a team fighting in four competitions this season, particularly in the wide areas, which could see the 24-year-old get a number of opportunities to impress.
Alternatively, he would suit Liverpool well in a role similar to Adam Lallana. Chamberlain’s industry and physicality suit the demands of the Reds’ gegenpressing game, while possessing the ability to transition quickly into attack – a trait that would give Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah further support.
Lallana is always a huge miss for Liverpool when not available, with Georginio Wijnaldum often unable to inject much-needed impetus into the front line. Thus, the signing of Oxlade-Chamberlain will ease the impact of Lallana’s absence, while offering healthy competition for places in the middle of the park.
Klopp has already harnessed the potential of various Liverpool players since joining the club – most noticeably Adam Lallana, who also lacked sufficient end product and quality in the final third under Brendan Rodgers. If he can do the same with Chamberlain, whose career has undoubtedly stagnated at Arsenal in recent years, he could flourish at Anfield.
Let’s just hope Thomas Lemar joins him.
Liverpool continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with an impressive 4-0 victory over Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
Jurgen Klopp made two changes to the side which beat Hoffenheim on Wednesday evening and secured a place in the Champions League group stages.
Simon Mignolet was mysteriously left out of the squad, while Loris Karius made his first start in goal since December 2016.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was also left out of the side as Joe Gomez and Alberto Moreno got the nod in the full-back positions.
“You’ll never walk alone” rang out loudly at Anfield before kick-off as Liverpool supporters hoped to spur their team on.
Liverpool started off as the brighter team too as Emre Can’s headed effort, following a ball in from Alberto Moreno from the left, went wide in the opening five minutes.
The German midfielder then put in an excellent ball for Mohammed Salah and Liverpool’s latest addition should have made it 1-0 to the hosts but Petr Cech pulled off a sensational save.
It didn’t take long for Liverpool to create another chance though and they took the lead in the 16th minute after Gomez won the ball back on the right-wing.
The 19-year-old then delivered a terrific cross and Roberto Firmino was in the right place to nod the ball down past Cech’s right hand.
Liverpool were well and truly on top and could have added another when Salah picked out Jordan Henderson’s run into the box.
The Reds’ skipper couldn’t find the right angle on his chipped strike and Arsenal were given another let off.
Arsenal had a chance of their own through Danny Welbeck but they failed to trouble Karius and the first half an hour was dominated by Liverpool.
The intensity dropped a little after that blistering start but Sadio Mane’s attempted volley almost found its way into the back of the net as Liverpool continued to probe.
Henderson and Can commanded the midfield and put the opposition under pressure as Alexis Sanchez struggled to get involved in the game.
Arsenal needed half-time to come quickly but Liverpool’s relentless attack had other ideas and Mane doubled their lead with five minutes of the first-half left to play.
At half-time, there were some harsh words on Arsenal from Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness: “They need a couple of proper centre-midfielders. It’s not that difficult to put that right.
“Arsenal are like a group of school boys.”
Thierry Henry added: “You have to give Liverpool credit. Mane’s was an amazing goal. It was well deserved but there were too many mistakes from Arsenal.
“They were simple ones that shouldn’t have happened.”
After a terrible first-half, Arsenal hoped to bounce back in the second and they looked more aggressive in the opening stages.
Welbeck put Karius under pressure at times and the Liverpool keeper almost made a costly mistake but he recovered well to settle the nerves.
Liverpool still looked threatening going forward and there were more chances for Can, Henderson and Salah to extend the Reds’ lead.
On 56 minutes, Salah did exactly that after robbing the ball off Hector Bellerin in the middle of the pitch and in a one-on-one situation there was never going to be another outcome.
Arsenal were prepared to through the kitchen sink at Liverpool for the final half an hour as Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette came on.
However, the Gunners rarely troubled Karius and the Liverpool keeper didn’t have too many shots to contend with throughout the game.
Mane, Can and Salah were gifted golden opportunities to make it 4-0 but it was late substitute Daniel Sturridge who got the final goal of the game.
The damage was well and truly done and Liverpool eventually rounded off an impressive display to take all three points and extend their unbeaten run.
Liverpool were sensational at times against Hoffenheim as they reached the Champions League group stage on Wednesday, playing the kind of football that any Reds team throughout history would have been proud of.
The way in which Jurgen Klopp’s side blew their naive opponents away at Anfield, especially in the first-half, really was a sight to behold, and we can now look forward to more great European nights on Merseyside.
This is a competition made for both Klopp and Liverpool – to have both working in tandem is a mouthwatering prospect.
Everywhere you looked against Hoffenheim, as long as you weren’t looking directly at Dejan Lovren, there were star performers, from Emre Can bossing things in the middle of the park to Sadio Mane putting in yet another unplayable showing in attack.
The man who stood out more than anyone, however, was Roberto Firmino.
Something I find hardest to fathom about being a Liverpool supporter is that the Brazilian is not rated highly by everyone. He is a masterful footballer who opposition players and managers must hate having to nullify.
It is over two years since Firmino arrived, but there are still some who fail to appreciate his worth to his side, which is a crying shame. Others may stand out more on a weekly basis, but very few make Liverpool tick like him.
Against Hoffenheim, we were treated to a Firmino masterclass – one that will hopefully see him receive more universal acclaim, both from Liverpool fans and neutrals across the globe.
Everything good that Liverpool did invariably involved him, and Hoffenheim’s defence couldn’t cope with his magic. He was everywhere – like the most talented, aesthetically-pleasing version of Jon Walters you will ever see.
There are occasions when a sloppiness can creep into Firmino’s game – he is so talented he almost expects things to come too easily sometimes – but on Wednesday night, he was bang on the money throughout.
His touch was sublime, some of his creativity was wonderful and it was his intelligence that partly allowed wide men Mohamed Salah and Mane to wreak such havoc.
The role Firmino played in the goal of the night, scored by Can, summed him up. The first touch to Gini Wijhaldum was so effortless but subtle, and his assist for the eventual goal was inch-perfect and perfectly weighted with his weaker left foot.
Off the ball is where Firmino is perhaps most criminally underrated, but if you couldn’t see how effective he was in that area against Julian Nagelsmann’s team, you never will.
His hounding of the Hoffenheim defence was the catalyst for Liverpool blowing their opponents away in the opening quarter of the match, with his pressing calculated rather than reckless, and his physicality another side to him that many under-appreciate.
Maybe it is his languid style that works against him, but Firmino is every bit the world-class off-the-ball forward someone like Thomas Muller is – he just has a more classy way of showing it.
This was a night that hopefully saw the silky South American earn a new legion of followers – big performances in high-profile matches will do that – as he continues to grow into a superstar on Merseyside. Let’s not forget he is still only 25, and arguably a few years from his peak.
To fully appreciate Firmino you occasionally have to watch everything he does with a microscope, from clever touches to unselfish runs, but even his most ardent detractor would struggle to deny his influence at Anfield on Wednesday.
When he plays well, Liverpool play well, which is why he is always one of the first names on the team-sheet.
So much of the talk during this summer’s transfer window has been about the need for Liverpool to buy a “proper striker who gets 30 goals a season”.
The likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were both loosely linked with joining the Reds, but Klopp made it clear he was happy with his options.
The problem with signing a top class out-and-out striker was always going to be how it affected Firmino, and it is clear that the Liverpool manager sees him as the perfect man to lead the line.
Sure, he will never possess the finishing ability of top Premier League marksmen such as Romelu Lukaku or Harry Kane, but in this style of play under this manager, you will struggle to find someone better suited.
If Firmino is scoring 15 goals a season and playing a big part in Philippe Coutinho, Mane and Salah scoring roughly the same amount, why is it an issue that he isn’t finding the net more?
Sixty goals between four players is far more useful to the team than one player banging in 35 and not helping others chip in.
Quite what Firmino has to do to earn resounding praise remains to be seen, but his stunning Man of the Match display against Hoffenheim deserves to earn him plenty of column inches.
He is unlikely to ever be loved by the majority like Coutinho and Mane, but he is a majestic player who will be vital in what we hope is a march towards European Cup number six in 2017/18.
Liverpool are back in the Champions League proper. The draw for the group stages could have been far worse than it has ended up being, but for now, that doesn’t matter. What matters is Sunday evening at Anfield, for the first high-profile Premier League game of the season.
When Arsenal came to Anfield last season – in early March – they were in turmoil. They had just been beaten 5-1 at the Allianz Arena, and it looked like that could be Arsene Wenger’s last visit to Anfield. It wasn’t, as he prepares his charges for another trip to a venue where they have not won since 2012.
Liverpool are on a high after three consecutive wins and a smashing performance to round off the Champions League playoff against Hoffenheim, but only a lunatic would write off a side with as much talent as Arsenal possess. Laurent Koscielny is back from a suspension and Alexis Sanchez is likely to feature too, as the Gunners look to bounce straight back from a disappointing 1-0 reverse at Stoke last weekend.
For Liverpool, there is nothing new in terms of the team news. Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are still injured, and Philippe Coutinho is still unavailable. That should mean that Jurgen Klopp puts out an unchanged side from the playoff against Hoffenheim, as his players head into an international break after the game on Sunday.
Here are some key individual battles that will decide the outcome of the game.
ROBERTO FIRMINO v SHKODRAN MUSTAFI
What a performance Firmino put in against Hoffenheim! It was magnificent to watch and I can only imagine what a pleasure he would have been to play with on Wednesday night. He led the press, he provided the creativity, he provided the key passes, he took shots on goals and could easily have ended up with more goals than just the one that he managed.
Why this will be a challenge for Mustafi and co. in Arsenal’s back three is because, as a defender, you don’t know how to deal with Firmino when he is at his best. He is not the stereotypical no. 9, who makes those darts in behind or is a fox-in-the-box. What Firmino is, is the Raumdeuter. The one who finds himself in the space. And with Arsenal’s new system – 3 centre-backs – Firmino will keep drifting deeper into midfield to drag a centre-back with him and let Sadio Mane or Mo Salah use that pace to get in behind the defense.
But he will also work it wide for Salah and Mane to take the wing-backs on, he will try and get Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum involved in Liverpool’s attacking player.
Arsenal have conceded four goals in two games in the Premier League, and do look shaky at the back as they still adapt to a change in the Wenger system. But they cannot afford any lapses on Sunday, for Bobby Firmino will make them pay.
SADIO MANE v HECTOR BELLERIN
With Koscielny available again, it is highly likely that Bellerin will move back into the right-wing-back position, with Sead Kolasinac slotting back into his usual role at right-wing-back. For a right-sided defender in the league this season, tests won’t come sterner than the one posed by Anfield’s new Senegalese darling.
There is a beautiful simplicity to Mane’s game. He has a strength and he uses it. Boy, he uses it! Bellerin is one of the quicker full-backs in the league, and in that sense, better equipped than quite a few others to deal with Mane.
But that is where the unpredictability of pace comes in for Mane, as his two back-heels to set up goals on Wednesday night showed. The pace is the obvious strength, but Mane is a much more rounded player now.
The massive factor for Liverpool is that Mane is loving his football at the moment. He is at the peak of his powers and is getting the Anfield love that a Luis Suarez or a Fernando Torres commanded.
Arsenal’s system, in theory, is best exploited when you get runners into the space behind the wing-backs and on the sides of the centre-backs. It is safe to say very few in the league do that better than Mane, at the moment.
DEJAN LOVREN v ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE
Yes, Lovren is the weak link in our defense. Yes, that is where Arsenal will look to exploit us. At the moment, Lacazette looks like their best attacking player. That is why this battle within the battle will be critical in deciding which way the pendulum swings.
Lovren was definitely culpable for the first goal that Hoffenheim scored on Wednesday, as he put in a third uncertain performance in three starts this season. Lovren’s season has started off so badly his best contribution so far has been taking a bang to the face from Christian Benteke in injury time against Crystal Palace.
With Lacazette, Lovren cannot afford to lose concentration or make schoolboy errors because Arsenal’s new no. 9 is lethal. He scores goals, is the most simplistic and accurate manner to describe Lacazette.
With the likes of Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and, at some point, Alexis likely to give Lacazette company, the Liverpool back four will have their hands full.
It is important to defend as a team, and that is what we don’t do. Even against Hoffenheim at Anfield, there were a couple of moments when the two full-backs and Matip pushed up and held their line, while Lovren lurked behind, playing the Hoffenheim attackers onside.
That is a concentration thing, not a system thing. Those are the kinds of mistakes that a change in personnel can eradicate. There will be no change in personnel by Sunday, so one can only cross their fingers in the hope that Lovren will not have one of those days. Again.
Venue – Anfield
Referee – Martin Atkinson
Date & Time – Sunday, August 27th @ 16:00 BSTForm
Liverpool come into this game after successfully navigating a potential banana-skin of a Champions League playoff with Hoffenheim of Germany. Since the 3-3 opening day result at Watford, the Reds have won their last three games in a row, beating Hoffenheim twice, either side of the home win against Palace. Liverpool, surprisingly, are aiming for a fourth home Premier League clean sheet in a row. Although, judging on recent games with the Londoners I wouldn’t put my house on it.
Arsenal defeated Chelsea on penalties in the Community Shield, then beat Leicester 4-3 at the Emirates before suffering a 1-0 defeat away to Stoke last Saturday evening. With Alexis Sanchez returning, Arsenal will pose a new set of problems for Liverpool’s defence. He may not be 100% match fit but if Sanchez is in the right mind-frame then he will need to be monitored closely. Arsenal must consider themselves unlucky after the defeat at Stoke. Arsenal had 77% possession and 18 shots on goal but Jack Butland was in inspired form to deny them.
Arsenal owe Klopp’s men some payback after Liverpool denied them of Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years by holding onto fourth place last season. Whether they have the wherewithal about them to actually inflict that revenge is another question.
This is normally the exact type of game that suits Liverpool. Arsenal will not come to Anfield to defend. They don’t know how to play like that. They will come at us. They will leave space. They may well score one or two (or more) but can they stop the Liverpool forward line from bagging them at the other end? Mané has been in sensational form so far this season. Firmino displayed his class on Wednesday night against Hoffenheim. Emre Can is making himself undroppable and Salah is enjoying his start in the Red jersey.Team News
Liverpool are without Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne, due to injury. Clyne should be available again after the International break and it will be very interesting to see how Klopp decides on the RB role after the recent emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The Coutinho saga isn’t likely to be over until after the window closes. I don’t expect to see Phil line out for the Reds this Sunday.
The Gunners have an almost clean bill of health with Santi Cazorla their only player on the injury list. Koscielny is back from suspension, also.
Alexis Sanchez is said to be fit to make his first appearance of the season for Arsenal. Wenger and co will be hoping it’s not his last. If Arsenal can get through this next week or so while holding onto their Chilean attacker it will have a huge impact on their season. Sanchez has been one of the best performers in English football since his arrival from Barcelona in the summer of 2014.Predicted XIs
Liverpool XI – Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren, Robertson, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Firmino, Mané
Arsenal XI – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Kolasinac, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Bellerin, Ozil, Sanchez, LacazetteWhen they last met
Liverpool did the double over Arsenal last season and haven’t lost to the Gunners since the 4-1 hammering at the Emirates in April 2015. Last season’s Anfield meeting was a 3-1 victory for Liverpool with Firmino, Mané and Wijnaldum on the scoresheet. Welbeck scored for Arsenal.
We should see plenty of goals on Sunday. The last three games between these two teams have brought us 17 goals, averaging almost six per game!Prediction
As already mentioned, we should see goals galore on Sunday. I think Liverpool are ticking along nicely after a slow but steady start to the season. It’s also impossible to ignore Klopp’s record against the ‘Big Six’ in the Premier League. Victory at Anfield would send Liverpool into the break with seven points from nine in the Premier League. Along with qualification for the Champions League group stages, that has to be considered a very positive start to 2017/18.
Wenger seems to have been under a constant wave of pressure in the Arsenal hot-seat for at least five years now. The French bossman will be hoping to get the minimum of a draw here so he can ‘enjoy’ the International break, and quieten the calls for his head for at least another week or two.
Liverpool 3 – 2 Arsenal