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Liverpool 0-0 Man City: Who was the Man of the Match?Key Stats as Reds' Unbeaten Streak Clings...

Tue, 09/10/2018 - 14:43

Riyad Mahrez’s late penalty miss has left Liverpool fans pondering whether their side’s goalless draw with Manchester City represents a point gained or two points dropped.

On the one hand, the Reds could be thankful that they were not punished for what was an uninspiring performance, bereft of the anticipated vigour, but on the other, it seems that a potentially crucial opportunity has been missed, with City expected to hoover up the points elsewhere.

Liverpool flew out of the blocks at Anfield but their lively start would not set the tone for the remainder of the contest as City soon settled into their rhythm and effectively nullified the press which cowed them into submission in this fixture last season.

There was markedly more desire about Liverpool’s play than there had been in the dismal defeat in Napoli, but still composure, creativity and fluidity were lacking. The hosts had just shy of 50% of the ball, but their opponents clearly carved out the better chances.

In general, a game billed as a must-see blockbuster wound up a damp squib.

Thus, the wait for Liverpool’s widely-feared frontline to come alive goes on.

Mohamed Salah played pretty well but once again he failed to provide the magic touch which characterised his record-breaking debut season. He had two efforts from distance, one of which bounced past the past while the other was gratefully received by Ederson. The hunger is evident, but the clinical edge is absent for the moment.

Still, he was the best performer of the trio. Roberto Firmino had a frustrating afternoon before he was substituted, unable to pick up possession in dangerous areas and, often, to hold onto the ball further back. Sadio Mane, meanwhile, struggled to find any real space from which he could do damage. Neither he nor Firmino registered a single shot.

Elsewhere, the work-rate of the midfielders, looking to redeem themselves following their midweek anonymity, could not be faulted, but still the lack of a creative presence hurt Liverpool. The Reds, without that intermediary, were repeatedly forced to resort to long balls in their efforts to unlock City.

Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Naby Keita, who replaced James Milner early on, are not really to blame, but Jurgen Klopp may have to drop one of them if he wants his side to put some meaningful chances together.

With little threat of a goal at the right end, then, Liverpool were reliant on their backline to rebuff City’s usually irrepressible advances.

Fortunately, they were able to pass the toughest test in English football in spite of significant changes.

After shining at Stamford Bridge, Alisson delivered another strong performance and came up with some important saves to deny Mahrez. With the help of John Achterberg, he was able to guess right for the Algerian’s penalty, though there was no need for a save of course.

Virgil van Dijk was typically authoritative for the most part and passed the ball brilliantly (he finished with a startling accuracy of 93.3%) but he was still rightfully frustrated with himself after conceding the penalty through a clumsy challenge on Leroy Sane. It was a rare moment of rashness from the usual impeccable centre-half.

Usual partner Joe Gomez was shifted to the right-side of the four, a position where he has looked uncomfortable in the past, and while it was a strange decision from the manager with Nathaniel Clyne available to replace a tired Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gomez carried out the role with enthusiasm as he bombed forward repeatedly and delivered six crosses along with three key passes.

Equally, there were no qualms to be had about Andrew Robertson’s performance on the left.

But man of the match goes to Dejan Lovren, whose initial selection was a shock to many.

There seemed little reason to interrupt the development of a Gomez-Van Dijk partnership which is swiftly becoming perhaps the best in the Premier League, especially given Lovren’s recent lack of match practice.

It was the first time Lovren had even made the squad for a Premier League game this season, with his only appearance coming in the 2-1 League Cup defeat to Chelsea last month.

But he has, in truth, had a fantastic 2018, helping Liverpool to the Champions League final before reaching the same stage with Croatia at the World Cup. An injury he sustained at the tournament has cost him a starting role at Liverpool, but on Sunday he was able to pick up where he left off.

It was a fiery performance befitting of the high-stakes occasion. Lovren was strong and powerful, executing a team-best five tackles (all of which earned an approving roar from the crowd) and winning two of his rare aerial duels.

He also cleared the ball on four occasions and could boast a passing accuracy (87% to be precise) not far shy of Van Dijk. He proved himself once again to be a worthy partner of the elite Dutchman.

We shouldn’t overstate the impact of the performance – in all likelihood, Gomez will slot back into the role when Liverpool head to Huddersfield after the international break – but we’ve been reminded that we really shouldn’t forget about Dejan.

Lethargy has crept in of late as the Reds navigated a gruelling run, and while they are unlikely to encounter such a daunting onslaught again this season, key fixtures, both domestic and continental, will continue to come thick and fast.

That means rotation will be essential, and Lovren looks set to benefit from that, having no doubt impressed Klopp.

Lovren’s Liverpool career has thus far been marked by its horror-shows, but at last fans can be confident that the 29-year-old will produce a solid showing when called upon. He has, without doubt, turned a corner.

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Liverpool v Manchester City Preview - Reds and City face-off in potential thrillerNapoli 1-0...

Fri, 05/10/2018 - 20:49
The Details

Venue – Anfield, Liverpool

Referee – Martin Atkinson

Date & Time – Sunday, October 7th @ 16:30

Current Odds – Liverpool 13/8, Draw 13/5, Manchester City 17/10

Form Liverpool Form

Liverpool’s form has taken a definite hit over the last week or so. Yet, the most important fixture, in my view, was when Jurgen Klopp’s men attained the most positive result of the last week – with Daniel Sturridge bagging a late equaliser at Stamford Bridge to maintain The Reds’ unbeaten league record.

On Wednesday night, Liverpool put in a poor, sluggish performance in Italy. They did restrict Napoli’s xG to a very low rate in the first half, however, the home team then took far more control after the break and, as you can see from the xG stats below, went on to grab a well-deserved win.

Now, Klopp and his team face the task of bouncing back from this disappointment against one of the best ever Premier League teams, on Sunday.

Manchester City Form

Despite a surprise home loss to Lyon in their opening Champions League game, Manchester City have continued on the same fantastic form they displayed for the bulk of last season. Four straight wins since that Lyon defeat also shows their ability to bounce back impressively after taking a knock, too. However, Sunday’s trip to Anfield is without doubt City’s biggest test of the season, so far.

Team News Liverpool Team News

Jurgen Klopp has some big decisions to make over the next few days. Liverpool’s front trio is not currently firing on all cylinders, failing to register a single shot on target in Napoli, on Wednesday night. There have been calls for Klopp to mix things up with the introduction of Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri into the starting eleven. This is a possibility but for Sunday, I expect Klopp to stick with the same front three, to start.

In midfield, Naby Keita is rumoured to be okay after initially looking in some pain when he left the pitch in Naples, during the week. However, I would be surprised if he is risked from the start, at Anfield, this weekend. This means Liverpool’s midfield will most likely consist of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and James Milner. This midfield possesses plenty of energy and guile but seriously lacks in creativity. This could be the area of the pitch where Liverpool possibly lose the game.

At the back, Alisson is in fine form between the sticks while the back-four should be the same again. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson both put in uncharacteristically poor performances in the Champions League, on Wednesday, and will need to sort their heads out right from the start to prevent City’s attack running riot.

Adam Lallana is still a doubt so he may not make the squad. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is, of course, out for the rest of the season. Dejan Lovren is available for selection and will be itching to get his starting spot back from young Joe Gomez.

Manchester City Team News

Pep Guardiola’s current injury-list consists of Benjamin Mendy, Claudio Bravo, Fabian Delph, and, of course, the brilliant Kevin De Bruyne. Ilkay Gundogan is also carrying a slight knock but should be available for selection, come Sunday.

I expect Gundogan to get the nod in midfield, alongside Fernandinho and David Silva. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané will most likely flank Sergio Aguero, on either side.

At the back, Ederson will be in goal and the back four should consist of Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and, possibly, Aymeric Laporte at left-back.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson(c), Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mané

Manchester City XI (4-3-3) – Ederson; Walker, Kompany(c), Stones, Laporte; Gundogan, Fernandinho, D. Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sané

When they last met

Last season, Liverpool and Manchester City met four teams. Klopp’s men won three and City won one of those fixtures. At Anfield, Liverpool beat City 4-3 in an epic league encounter and The Reds again beat City 3-0, at Anfield, in the Champions League quarter-final, almost three months later.

Prediction

Liverpool 3 – 2 Manchester City

Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané both got on the scoresheet in the two Anfield victories, last season. The goals have been harder to come by in recent games, however. Liverpool need to hit the ground running against City and the first goal could be absolutely vital, on Sunday. I think we’ll see a much-improved performance from what we saw on Wednesday, at Napoli. The Reds simply have to be better and the Premier League must be our number one target, for this season. Anfield should be bouncing for this game. I expect plenty of goals and Liverpool to have too much for City, just about.

** Please note – “xGA” in the Form Stats tables symbolises “expected goals against” **

**All xG stats courtesy of Understat.com and FiveThirtyEight.com

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Napoli 1-0 Liverpool: What went wrong?Key Stats as Reds Falter In Naples - Napoli 1 Liverpool 0Panic...

Thu, 04/10/2018 - 16:59

In light of Liverpool’s first truly meaningful loss of the season, perspective is important. The Reds are joint-top of the Premier League and are still well-placed to progress to the Champions League knockouts with back-to-back games against relative minnows Red Star to come.

Still, the quite shambolic nature of the performance must be recognised. Some will dismiss it as an ‘off night’, while others may see genuine cause for concern.

Below is an attempted summation of the reasons for a thoroughly deserved defeat.

A poor start sets the tone

Jurgen Klopp was keen to stress in the lead-up to this one that Liverpool were fully-focused and that they did not have one eye on the potentially season-defining clash with Manchester City which looms, but the Reds looked like they were playing for a draw.

From the first whistle, Liverpool’s performance failed to tick any of the boxes. It lacked confidence, control, energy, incision and all the other essentials. Fans were left waiting for their almost unrecognisable side to wake up.

The half-time whistle, then, came as a relief. Surely Klopp would give his players a proverbial kick up the backside and, as a result, they would play with significantly more desire in the second half?

As it turned out, they did not raise their game at all. Aside from the odd thirty-second spell of pressure, they failed to cause any problems for Napoli or, in a more general sense, give the travelling supporters anything to shout about.

Liverpool seemingly decided to settle for a point, and that is precisely why they didn’t deserve one.

Midfield absent

With the dynamic Naby Keita drafted in for a European debut, the team sheet certainly made for exciting viewing. Keita figured prominently in the early stages without really impressing, but with hindsight his 19th-minute withdrawal was a real blow.

Liverpool were in desperate need of a player who would grab the game by the scruff of the neck and function as the intermediary between midfield and attack whilst also harassing the opposition.

The trademark intensity was missing in Keita’s absence as Napoli were allowed to stroke the ball around and look for an opening. Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum, who usually approach big European fixtures with brilliant aggression, were a tame second best in the midfield battle and failed to provide the front three with any real service.

With Keita injured, the onus was on Wijnaldum to link play, but whether through lack of ambition or licence, he couldn’t.

Simply put, the midfield didn’t do its job.

Needed spark watches on

This flat performance patently needed an injection of life, but renowned firecracker Xherdan Shaqiri was left watching from the substitutes’ bench.

Shaqiri’s cameo at Stamford Bridge was uninspiring, but in earlier appearances he had dazzled, showcasing the kind of creativity and ingenuity which Liverpool were sorely lacking. The substitution seemed a no-brainer.

Klopp waited until the 76th minute to make his first change, and even then he opted to introduce Fabinho, signalling his intention to hang on rather than actively go for victory.

Daniel Sturridge, scorer of one the best goals in the club’s recent history last time out, would not get his chance for another ten minutes, and predictably there was too little time for him to make any impact.

This was without a doubt one of the poorer managerial performances of Klopp’s tenure.

Even the team selection, however exciting, could be questioned. Perhaps he should have made changes for the middle leg of a gruelling triple-header, particularly given that Liverpool had spent so long frantically pursuing an equaliser against Chelsea. Fatigue may well have played a part in this lifeless display.

Attack a shadow of former self

As mentioned above, the service into Liverpool’s front three was poor, but when they did have the ball they did not possess their usual air of threat.

Mohamed Salah cut a frustrated figure throughout, Roberto Firmino failed to add quality to his endeavour and Sadio Mane’s decision-making deserted him as he repeatedly held onto the ball for too long before losing it.

Unlike in recent games, the main issue was not their failure to take their chances, but their failure to carve any out.

Fans are eagerly awaiting the promised moment when the trio come alive, but ten games in it has yet to materialise, and the fluidity has yet to return. It’s difficult to put your finger on exactly why, but they will need to hit their former heights soon if Liverpool are to sustain their challenges on the domestic and continental fronts.

Flanked

To its credit, Liverpool’s defensive core was reasonably impressive. Joe Gomez shone, Virgil van Dijk led and Alisson made some important saves.

However, the full-backs were less solid. Andrew Robertson was level-headed in his own third for much of the game, but it was down his side that Jose Callejon broke free before putting the ball on a plate for Lorenzo Insigne’s winner when the Reds were caught napping.

On the other side, Trent Alexander-Arnold was lucky not to be punished for his numerous errors. On a number of occasions, the 19-year-old was too narrow and a crusading Mario Rui was able to get in behind, very nearly teeing up an opener for Dries Mertens.

All in all, then, only three of the eleven players performed at the level required.

Every team, no matter how good, has bad nights. This was a particularly terrible one for Liverpool, lacklustre in almost every sense. Overall, it remains a strong start to the season despite the failure to come close to full capacity.

To ensure we end on a positive, we can say this: if this is the jolt which awakens the beast, then it will prove nothing more than a soon-to-be-forgotten-blip.

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Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool: Sturridge stonker preserves unbeaten recordChelsea v Liverpool Preview - Top...

Sun, 30/09/2018 - 13:57

Daniel Sturridge scored one of his finest career goals to earn Liverpool a late point at Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard’s first-half strike had given Chelsea a lead that they preserved with comfort for much of the game, Mohamed Salah and his substitute Xherdan Shaqiri missing the Reds’ most glorious chances before Sturridge struck.

Klopp opted to pull Naby Keita and Fabinho from his midfield to give the starting XI a familiar look as Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson returned to the side.

It was a tactic that didn’t seem to work early on, Chelsea having the better of things as Andy Robertson fell asleep, allowing William to profit from David Luiz’s ball over the top – Alisson on hand to make the first of a few smart saves as he burst out quickly.

The Brazilian couldn’t stop Hazard’s effort a few minutes later though, Trent Alexander-Arnold being dragged out of position by some slick midfield moves by the Blues, Hazard sent away down the left by Mateo Kovacic to slide the ball across goal and into the corner.

Liverpool made a good fist of their response with much of he attacking impetus coming through Salah, who was left stunned as Antonio Rudiger cleared his goalbound effort off the line after the Egyptian had rounded Kepa.

Sadio Mane was enduring a quiet evening but one moment of quality at the start of the second half almost saw him score, as he shuffled between two men in the area before forcing Kepa to save at his near post.

That effort was met by further Chelsea attacking as Alisson underlined his ever-growing importance to this Liverpool team with an impressive save from Hazard.

Taking a free-kick quickly, the hosts caught Liverpool cold and had their main man bearing down on goal, only for Alisson to spread himself brilliantly and save.

Sensing changes were needed, Klopp hooked Salah for Shaqiri and was left bemused as the Swiss missed a point-blank chance from Andy Robertson’s cross minutes before Roberto Firmino had his header swept from the line by David Luiz.

With another substitute, Naby Keita, proving with little fortune, Klopp’s final throw of the dice came in the form of Daniel Sturridge – who landed on a double six.

Sturridge’s fourth goal of the season, and finest may prove to be his most important as he secured an inconsistent Liverpool display was rewarded with a draw by curling into the top corner from 25 yards.

It ensures second place for the Reds ahead of another huge week, with Napoli on Wednesday before Manchester City rock up to Anfield in eight days time.

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Chelsea v Liverpool Preview - Top of the Table clash at The BridgeLiverpool v Chelsea Preview - A...

Thu, 27/09/2018 - 11:17
The Details

Venue – Stamford Bridge, London

Referee – Andre Marriner

Date & Time – Saturday, September 29th @ 17:30

Current Odds – Chelsea 15/8, Draw 12/5, Liverpool 11/8

Form Chelsea Form

Chelsea, along with Manchester City, have been the closest league competitors to Liverpool, so far this season. The Blues have made the best start they could have imagined under new boss, Maurizio Sarri. Disregarding Wednesday night’s game, due to the heavy rotation involved on both teams, Chelsea had already been very tough to stop with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic settling in well while Eden Hazard has looked more like his old self, too. Their League Cup victory at Anfield showed us all just how serious they are to be taken. Sarri and his team know that Saturday evening’s meeting at Stamford Bridge is the perfect opportunity for them to announce themselves as serious title contenders.

Liverpool Form

Prior to Anfield’s League Cup exit on Wednesday night, Liverpool had been simply been unstoppable. Tricky wins at Palace and Leicester, along with impressive victories away to Spurs and home to PSG, have shown just how far this team has come in the (almost) three years since Jurgen Klopp took the reins, at Anfield.

Make no mistake, Wednesday night’s defeat will have left a bad taste for these Redmen and they will be looking to right that wrong on Saturday.

Team News Chelsea Team News

Chelsea do not currently have many injury concerns. Antonio Rudiger, Emerson, and Pedro are all carrying slight knocks but none are expected to be out of Saturday’s game.

Like Liverpool, Chelsea will have many players fresh and ready to go for Saturday after being rested for the League Cup encounter on Wednesday night. Sarri will most likely stick with his favoured 433 shape with Jorginho, N’Golo Kanté and Kovacic in midfield. I think Sarri will choose Olivier Giroud to lead the line for this game with Eden Hazard and Pedro providing the pace on either side of him.

In defence, Sarri needs to choose between Rudiger, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, and David Luiz in the centre. Cesar Azplicueta and Marcos Alonso should take their spots in the fullback roles.

Liverpool Team News

Liverpool should be back to full strength for Saturday’s game. The back four in front of Alisson should remain the same. I expect Dejan Lovren has a tough task at hand to force his way back into Klopp’s first team due to the start Joe Gomez has made to the season. Gini Wijnaldum should hold his place at the base of midfield with James Milner and Naby Keita just ahead of him. Up front, it will be the trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains sidelined through injury and his aim is to return before the end of the season. Divock Origi and Adam Lallana are both facing late fitness tests to see if they will be available for selection, too.

Predicted XIs

Chelsea XI (4-3-3) – Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta(c), Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso; Kanté, Jorginho, Kovacic; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard

Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Winjaldum, Milner(c), Keita; Salah, Firmino, Mané

When they last met

On Wednesday night, the two sides met in the Carabao Cup with Chelsea winning 2-1, at Anfield. Daniel Sturridge gave Liverpool the lead in the second half but Chelsea left-back, Emerson, equalised before a wonder-goal from Eden Hazard won it for The Blues with five minutes to play.

The last time the sides met in London, Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of the game. Chelsea took all three points back in May in the end of season fixture. The previous season, Liverpool won 2-1 at Chelsea. Dejan Lovren and Jordan Henderson were the scorers, that day. Liverpool went two up in the first half before Diego Costa pulled one back after the break.

Prediction

Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool

I think Liverpool’s first-choice starting eleven will have too much for Chelsea, this weekend. Alonso will be restricted in his attacking wing-back role due to the defensive duties posed to him by Salah on the right. Firmino and Milner will, no doubt, press hard on Chelsea’s midfield metronome, Jorginho, and that could be the key to Liverpool getting the result they want at ‘The Bridge’. However, Hazard needs to be contained. Klopp has some thinking to do about how that is to be achieved. I think The Reds will do enough to take all three points on Saturday. 2-1 to Liverpool.

** Please note – “xGA” in the Form Stats tables symbolises “expected goals against” **

**All xG stats courtesy of Understat.com

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Liverpool v Southampton Preview - Key BattlesLiverpool v Southampton Preview - Reds Aiming for...

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 22:16

After a successful start to their UEFA Champions League campaign on Tuesday night, Liverpool are back in Premier League action at Anfield, as they welcome Southampton on Saturday afternoon. Jurgen Klopp’s men are on a high, having won their first five Premier League games, but know they can’t afford to slip up on this potential banana-skin, with massive games against Chelsea and Manchester City following this one.

Klopp has a clean bill of health and is expected to field his strongest side to take the field against a Saints side, who will be bereft of Danny Ings, who cannot play as part of his loan agreement.

Roberto Firmino is expected to go straight back into the starting XI in place of Daniel Sturridge, while Naby Keita could also make a comeback into the Reds’ starting XI.

Here are some potentially key individual duels that could decide the fate of the game.

MOHAMED SALAH v RYAN BERTRAND

A lot was said in midweek about Salah’s performance and his perceived annoyance after Firmino’s late winner, but any questions about his unhappiness were put to rest soon after. Salah didn’t have a great game though, as the ball just didn’t stick for him, and he gave it away cheaply for PSG to score their second goal.

There is an opportunity to shut all the critics down on Saturday, though. But facing him will be one of the most consistent left-backs in the league over the last few seasons.

Salah’s performance levels are still not at a concerning level, it is just a few things like cleaner touches and better decision-making. His movement is still top-class, and he is still getting into the right positions – those of the kind which terrorised opposition defences last season.

He is just lacking a little bit of sharpness, and that should come with more game-time. It is a similar spell to the beginning of last season, when not just Salah, but the whole Liverpool team were creating loads of chances but not putting them away.

All it will take is one game where it all explodes, like it did against Maribor last season, for Salah to get back to the goalscoring form that we know. It is difficult to keep getting into threatening positions but not score at all, and the tap for Salah is just waiting to be burst open.

SADIO MANE v CEDRIC SOARES

Mane has had a fantastic goal-scoring start to the season and has benefited hugely from this changed role, where he is playing a lot more in central positions. He is also enjoying the added attention given to Salah and Firmino, which opens up a little more space for him to do his thing.

Against PSG, he started and ended the game like a house on fire, but for large periods in the middle, he was only a bystander who couldn’t really impact proceedings. Andy Robertson has been on fire, and that has helped Mane move infield without the fear of seeing the left flank unmanned.

Mane has also been hugely helped by Robertson’s ability to find him in space, in most situations. The Scot’s aerial balls have been pinged into Mane’s feet, which have allowed the Senegalese that extra bit of time on the ball to suss up the situation and then make his decisions.

Against Spurs last weekend, Mane’s decision-making was poor, but like Salah, that is nothing that points to any long-term concerns.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK v SHANE LONG 

In the absence of Ings, who has done a lot of the Saints’ goalscoring this season, the onus to trouble the Liverpool rearguard is likely to fall on Long. That isn’t exactly a happy place for Mark Hughes to be in, given the scarcity of Long’s goals in the last few seasons.

Van Dijk was immense in midweek against PSG, matching Edinson Cavani in the air, and also matching the speed of Kylian Mbappe on the floor.

With Joe Gomez, he has formed a strong partnership at the heart of the Liverpool defence, and that is expected to continue in this game as well.

Long needs support from the likes of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Nathan Redmond, whenever Southampton get forward. The Irishman chases down every ball and there’s no such thing as a lost cause for him, but he will need support when Southampton do foray forward.

It is expected to be a lonely afternoon up top for Long, but if he can get into positions to deliver the sucker punch, Liverpool have the personnel to deal with it, not least the big Dutchman.

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Liverpool v Southampton Preview - Reds Aiming for Magnificent Seven in a RowLiverpool 3-2 PSG:...

Thu, 20/09/2018 - 15:35
The Details

Venue – Anfield, Liverpool

Referee – Paul Tierney

Date & Time – Saturday, September 22nd @ 15:00

Current Odds – Liverpool 1/5, Draw 11/2, Southampton 12/1

Form Liverpool Form

Feast your eyes on the table below. The Reds have now won their first six games of the season. The last two were against Spurs and PSG. This team is the real deal. No, I’m not jumping the gun. They’ve shown us they’re the real deal since late last October. Liverpool’s form since then has been that of a top-level team. This continued on Tuesday night with a good, hard-fought win over Paris Saint Germain. The trick now, for Jurgen Klopp’s men, is to keep the focus on one game at a time. Starting with Southampton on Saturday, Liverpool have the task of keeping pace with Chelsea and staying two points clear of Manchester City. Southampton won’t be any pushovers, however. They are unbeaten in their last three games, winning both of their most recent away fixtures – at Crystal Palace and at Brighton (League Cup). But you wouldn’t bet against these Reds, would you?

Southampton Form

Mark Hughes’ team have recovered after an initially shaky start to their campaign. On Monday night, they were involved in an entertaining draw at home to Brighton in the league. The xG stats below show that The Saints just about shaded the game in terms of quality scoring chances. They were very impressive at Crystal Palace at the start of the month, winning 2-0 and with an xG of 3.08 compared to Palace’s xG of 1.37 in that game.

Team News Liverpool Team News

Klopp is without Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana this weekend while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain continues his long road back from injury which will hopefully see him return towards the end of this season. Dominic Solanke is a slight doubt but should be recovered enough to make the squad. Bobby Firmino passed his eye-test with flying colours after an injury-time winner against PSG on Tuesday night so he will be chomping at the bit to get his starting place back off Daniel Sturridge for Saturday.

It will be an interesting selection this weekend as it is probably the first game of the season where I expect Klopp to utilise more of the squad. Fabinho made his official debut in the dying moments against PSG and I expect him to get his first start on Saturday. James Milner continues to defy belief with his stamina but this game with Southampton may be the ideal time to give those weary legs some time off with some more huge games on the horizon. Klopp won’t want to tinker with a winning team too much so the midfield will probably consist of Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita. Gini Wijnaldum had another good game in midweek but, like Milner, may need to be rested before the upcoming trips to Chelsea and Napoli.

The defensive lineup should remain the same, I hope. Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk have been forming a formidable partnership and more time playing together is what they need. Dejan Lovren faces a mammoth task to get back into this starting eleven when he is fit again.

Mohamed Salah looks a little out of sorts at times, this season. I felt he had a good first half on Tuesday night but then seemed to lack confidence in the later stages of the game, gifting possession to PSG for Kylian Mbappe’s equaliser shortly before he was taken off. Klopp may well give Xherdan Shaqiri a start on Saturday or else Daniel Sturridge could keep his place up front with Firmino returning to flank Sturridge on the opposite side to Sadio Mané. Although, Sturridge did drift a lot deeper against PSG and spent a lot of time on the left, too. So, a front three of Mané on the right with Firmino central and Sturridge just dropping deep to the left could well be on the cards. The beauty of squad depth, eh?!

Southampton Team News

Southampton have no present injury concerns. They are, however, without Danny Ings as, technically, he is still only on loan at The Saints, though he will be signing permanently at the end of the loan deal. For now, Ings is not allowed to play against his parent club, Liverpool.

Hughes lined his team up in a 442 shape for Monday’s draw at home to Brighton. I’d expect them to have a more compact midfield for the trip to Anfield, though. A 451 shape is most likely with either Shane Long or Charlie Austin leading the line, up front. Steven Davis will probably get the nod to take the extra place in central midfield, alongside Mario Lemina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

At the back, it will be a case of the usual suspects with Alex McCarthy between the sticks, Cedric Soares and captain, Ryan Bertrand, in the fullback positions, while giant centre-back, Jannik Vestergaard partners Wesley Hoedt in the middle of the back four.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool XI (4-3-3) – Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson(c), Keita; Mané, Firmino, Sturridge

Southampton XI (4-5-1) – McCarthy; Cedric, Vestergaard, Hoedt, Bertrand(c); Elyounoussi, Lemina, Davis, Hojbjerg, Redmond; Long

When they last met

Liverpool took six points from The Saints, last season, winning 3-0 at Anfield and 2-0 at St Mary’s. Mo Salah scored a brace at Anfield with Philippe Coutinho adding a third in the second half. The Reds had failed to beat Southampton in the previous three Anfield meetings, however, drawing two and losing 1-0 at home in the League Cup semi-final second leg. Shane Long grabbed a very late winner that night to send Southampton to Wembley.

Prediction

Liverpool 2 – 0 Southampton

As is often the case after a tough European fixture, Saturday could see a slightly lacklustre Liverpool performance. I think we will do enough to get over the line, though, and our ever-improving defence should cope well with Southampton’s advances. I’d back another goal for Sturridge in a 2-0 win for The Reds.

** Please note – “xGA” in the Form Stats tables symbolises “expected goals against” **

**All xG stats courtesy of Understat.com

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Liverpool v PSG Preview - Potential Key BattlesLiverpool v Paris Saint Germain Preview - PSG Stars...

Mon, 17/09/2018 - 11:44

After a perfect start to the Premier League season, a confident Liverpool will get their UEFA Champions League campaign up and running, with a mouthwatering clash against French Champions Paris St. Germain at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Liverpool are in what is perceived as one of the groups of death, so it is imperative that they get their campaign off to a positive start, in front of what will be a typically raucous European night crowd at Anfield.

Jurgen Klopp will not have too many concerns heading into the game, but the Reds will need to get out of the second gear that they’ve coasted along in, in their opening five Premier League games. There are concerns though, over the availability of Roberto Firmino, who picked up an abrasion in the eye in a tussle with Jan Vertonghen on Saturday at Wembley.

For the French side, there are concerns of their own, with both Gianluigi Buffon and Marco Verrati suspended, having carried forward suspensions from last season’s knockout round.

Thomas Tuchel, the new PSG manager, will not have happy memories of his only trip to Anfield when his Borussia Dortmund side were spectacularly knocked out of the Europa League in 2016.

Here are the key individual duels to watch out for during the game.

SADIO MANE v THOMAS MEUNIER

Against Spurs at Wembley, Mane had an off-day, with respect to his decision-making in the final third. In a game that was uncharacteristic of him, he dwelt on the ball for a little too long in the final third and several presentable opportunities were spurned.

On the flip-side of the argument is that he was always in the right positions to cause a presentable threat to the Spurs defence, so there is little to worry, apart from the fact that he had an off-day.

Last season, Mane made it a point to have his best games on European nights, so the Reds faithful will be hoping that he can put the blemish of Saturday behind him, and restart doing what he does best.

In the absence of long-term absentee Dani Alves, Meunier will be the right-back for PSG, and his task will be cut out, as he looks to defend the threat of what has been the Reds’ stronger attacking side this season.

Andy Robertson is a willing runner who will always be available on the overlap, and Naby Keita has shown the tendency to get forward on the left flank as well.

Mane has shown a fabulous understanding with both those players, so Meunier will definitely need help from those around him, especially young Kylian Mbappe who is touted to start on the right wing for the French side.

If Firmino is absent as well, there will be an extra pressure of responsibility on Mane, and it is something the Senegalese does thrive on. After an indifferent day in London, Tuesday presents an ideal opportunity for Mane to shut down the detractors.

ANDREW ROBERTSON v KYLIAN MBAPPE

The Scot has made himself a presentable case of being called the best left-back in the Premier League right now. So, on Tuesday, he will relish the opportunity to go up against the hottest young property in world football.

Ever since bursting onto the scene with Monaco in the 2016-17 season, Mbappe’s stock has only kept rising, and he will play in one of the biggest games of his club career at Anfield.

Along with Neymar and Edinson Cavani, Mbappe forms an attacking triumvirate as fearsome and potent as the Reds’ own, so the Liverpool defence will have to be watchful all evening.

Maybe a little bit of his attacking intent might have to be shelved for a more pragmatic approach against the deadly pace and power of the young Frenchman, who terrorised full-backs throughout the World Cup.

There is also the interesting dynamic of rest. Robertson played only three days ago against Tottenham, while Mbappe was suspended for PSG’s 4-0 thrashing of St. Etienne at the weekend.

But if there’s one thing Robertson has shown, it is his willingness to take challenges head-on. One can rest assured there won’t be a backward step from the Scot, and it will be up to Mbappe to use all his skill and trickery to get the better of one of world football’s most improved players over the last one year.

MOHAMED SALAH v THE PSG LEFT-BACK

Indifferent might be an appropriate term to describe the start that Salah has had to this season. With Layvin Kurzawa out for the French side, it is the perfect opportunity for Salah to strike peak form again.

PSG will start either Stanley Nsoki or Juan Bernat at left-back, and either of them will not be having a peaceful sleep ahead of the game. During his time at Bayern Munich, it was well-documented that Bernat was not a very good defender, with his strengths as a full-back lying further up the pitch.

If Tuchel decides to play Nsoki ahead of Bernat, that is another risk, given the 19-year-old has not played in a match anywhere near this magnitude before.

Like Mane, Salah’s biggest drawback this season has been holding on to the ball for too long, instead of the conviction and clarity of his decision-making that we saw last season.

But again, there will be no concerns from any one of a Liverpool persuasion just yet. When things fall into place for this Liverpool attack, they can terrorise any defence in the world. PSG and Thomas Tuchel will hope Tuesday night is not the time and Anfield is not the place for it all to come together again.

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