Liverpool 4 – 1 West Ham

The Goals Keep Coming for Liverpool

The Reds, at least temporarily, moved into 2nd place after a repeat of the result from the Olympic Stadium earlier in the season. The Hammers had a couple of chances in the first half, including a chip from Marko Arnautovic which was tipped onto the crossbar. However, it was a different Liverpool that turned out for the second half, dominating their opponents and punishing them regularly. On another day Liverpool could’ve scored 7 or 8, but every Reds fan will be pleased to see this excellent run of results continue.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: Was only seriously tested on three occasions on a quiet afternoon for the stopper. He brilliantly denied Arnautovic twice in the first half, but couldn’t do anything to stop Michail Antonio.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: This kid is special. Another mature performance from a player whose mental and technical abilities are incredible for a lad of his age. TAA’s crossing was a particular highlight in a game where his all-around talent shone through.

Joel Matip – 6: Similar to previous games, Matip again failed to justify his place ahead of Dejan Lovren. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes beyond gifting Arnautovic an early chance, but he still doesn’t play with confidence.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7: VVD also gifted West Ham a chance or two, but made up for it with the other 99% of his actions. He was largely untested for the majority of the game, but was again a strong presence at the back.

Andrew Robertson – 9: The bargain signing of the season. Like TAA, it’s easy to forget how young Robertson is. It’s a joy to watch him as he plays with his heart on his sleeve and fights for every pass, tackle and cross.

Emre Can – 7: Despite getting a goal and an assist, Can had a fairly quiet game. Considering the way the rest of the team were able to dominate West Ham, it was a surprise to see Can not getting more involved.

James Milner – 8: Milly has become an indispensable part of this squad. His leadership is invaluable, but it’s not his sole contribution, as his passing recently has been phenomenal. Should’ve had an assist when he played a perfectly weighted through ball to Firmino but the Brazilian failed to convert.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 8: The Ox was one player who turned it up in the second half. He grabbed two assists and almost scored himself as he ran riot over West Ham’s defence. It was a surprise to see him start, but he’s given Klopp something to think about after that performance.

Mo Salah – 8: Salah is now level with Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot, and he is still not showing any signs of slowing down. He was unfortunate to hit the post in the first half and he then headed over moments later. In typical Salah fashion though, the chances kept coming, and he inevitably found the back of the net.

Sadio Mane – 7: Couldn’t quite carry over his Champions League form into this game, but he was still a constant threat with his movement. He missed a couple of big chances but was duly rewarded with a goal eventually.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): He’s simply brilliant. Firmino was at the heart of every attack and again showed his brilliance. A cheeky nutmeg was followed by an outrageous no-look shot as he added another goal to his tally.

Subs

Adam Lallana – N/A (on for Firmino – 82′): No time to make a difference.

Alberto Moreno – N/A (on for Mane – 86′): No time to make a difference.

Dominic Solanke – N/A (on for Salah – 86′): No time to make a difference.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Klopp had plenty of time to prepare for this fixture, so there could be no excuses if Liverpool walked away with anything less than 3 points. Thankfully the team were sharp and the tactics employed paid off spectacularly. A running theme with Klopp, the only criticism is that he again didn’t give his subs enough game time after the match had already been won in the 77th minute.

Talking Points

Goals Galore

A good habit Liverpool are falling into is scoring in every game, usually more than once. The other encouraging sign is that despite the front three, and especially Salah, dominating the headlines, it’s not just them who are scoring. The defenders and midfielders are chipping in with goals and assists as well showing tremendous all-around attacking potency throughout the team.

Best XI

It’s arguable that Klopp has now more or less found his current best XI. The only real questions are whether the Ox or Gini WIjnaldum should start in midfield, and who should partner VVD at centre back between Lovren and Matip. The core of the team is well and truly established and have been consistently putting in impressive attacking and defensive displays.

Another Week Off

Liverpool have a week to prepare for the next game at home against Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s side will look to steal a result as they did against Manchester United, so Klopp will need his players to repeat yesterday’s efforts. The upcoming game against United may appear more important, but it is vital that Liverpool are in a position to secure 2nd place by not dropping points against Newcastle.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 25/02/2018

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Liverpool vs West Ham – Preview

Football is Back as The Reds Take On The Hammers

Liverpool

Team News and Predicted Lineup

livwest

Jurgen Klopp will almost certainly retain the majority of the players who starred against Porto in the Champions League. The only exception to this will be Emre Can who previously missed out due to suspension; he could replace Jordan Henderson as the holding midfielder. Other players who could spring a surprise include the returning Alberto Moreno and Trent Gomez, as well as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Matip who could also be handed starting roles.

 

West Ham

Team News and Predicted Lineup

west

West Ham’s team selection will not be nearly as straightforward thanks to a number of injuries and a suspension to Artur Masuaku. Edmilison Fernandes, Pedro Obiang and Andy Carroll are not expected to be fit in time, but Manuel Lanzini and Winston Reid will be assessed before the game to see if they will be ready to play. Michel Antonio has been covering at left wing-back, but if Reid returns then Aaron Cresswell will likely take Antonio’s place. If Lanzini is fit to start, David Moyes will have plenty of options both with his formation and players, given the fact that Lanzini can play behind the striker or in a deeper role.

 

Analysis

Both sides have had a relatively long time to prepare for this match as neither squad had midweek cup games to play. Klopp used this time to take his players to Spain for another one of his ‘mini pre-seasons’ in preparation for the road ahead. This should mean that the players will be well rested and well drilled in order to break down what will undoubtedly be a stubborn and deep West Ham defence-line. The key for Liverpool will be to try and exploit West Ham’s lack of pace down their right-hand side and turn Pablo Zabaleta and James Collins as often as possible. Barring a moment of magic, a set piece goal, or a long-range strike, Liverpool may find their chances few and far between unless they can get a quick goal and force West Ham to open up.

Moyes has likewise had plenty of time to prepare his side for the challenge of going to Anfield and getting a result. He will certainly have focused his attention on Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah and plotted to halt their impressive form. West Ham will have to allow Liverpool plenty of possession and try to hit them hard with the in-form Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez on the counter. If they concede a goal before Liverpool are ready to see the game out, then they could be lured into another thrashing as they were at the Olympic Stadium.

Prediction

Liverpool have worked hard this season to improve their results against sides who sit deep and invite pressure. Sometimes it has worked, and sometimes it hasn’t. However, The Reds have shown far greater consistency in this aspect recently and their current form along with being back at home should be enough to see them over the line. It’s entirely possible that West Ham could frustrate Liverpool as the likes of Swansea have done, but it’s also possible that Liverpool will steamroll the Hammers again. For this match I’m predicting a similar game to the recent one against Southampton and Liverpool will stroll to a comfortable and important 2-0 victory.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 23/02/2018.

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Porto 0 – 5 Liverpool

Reds Pummel Porto In First-Leg

Liverpool ran away with a perfect result in the first-leg of their round of 16 tie. It looked like it may not be the Reds’ night after a weak start in what was a surprisingly conservative opening period from both sides. The first 15 minutes were blighted by sloppy, unimaginative passing from Liverpool and Porto looked to be more likely of creating something. Thankfully, the Reds took control after 20 minutes and never looked back from there. Sadio Mane opened the rout after Jose Sa spilt his shot over the line, and Mo Salah scored his 30th goal of the season five minutes later. Mane scored a simple tap-in after the break, followed by an excellent finish from Roberto Firmino before Mane completed his hat-trick. It was an outstanding night for all of the Reds, but everyone will be particularly pleased to see Mane finally recovering from his slump.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 7: The German had virtually nothing to do in the first-half barring a few simple catches, but on the rare occasions he was called upon he did so with the same confidence he has shown in the last few fixtures.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 9: Porto were letting all of the Liverpool players have plenty of time on the ball except for TAA. The youngster was relentlessly pressed but he never looked like faltering. He dealt with the dangerous Yacine Brahimi comfortably while also getting forward to support Salah, so much so that Brahimi was forced to venture into more central areas to avoid TAA and try to get into the game. It’s easy to forget sometimes that he is only 19 and playing out of position from his natural role as a central-midfielder.

Dejan Lovren – 8: The Croatian made a vital block early to deny Otavio the chance to put Porto up 1-0. He followed this with a lovely long pass to Mane to give him an opportunity to create a scoring chance. He also won the ball from Sa’s throw to begin the move for Liverpool’s first goal of the night. An excellent performance from a man who comes under regular criticism.

Virgil Van Dijk – 7: Van Dijk made his Champions League debut for Liverpool on a brillaint night all around for the Reds. He made a crucial touch to divert a shot from Tiquinho Soares late in the first-half but also made one woeful attempt at a tackle against Corona in the box. In the second-half, he made another critical block to again deny Soares immediately after Firmino’s goal, but aside from these incidences, he didn’t have much to do.

Andy Robertson – 8: Another player who made his Champions League debut on the night. Robbo put in some threatening crosses, including one for Firmino that was only stopped by an outstanding intervention from Ivan Marcano and another for Sadio Mane late in the second-half. His only error throughout occurred when he was too slow to release Mane on a counter-attack.

Jordan Henderson – 6: An unremarkable but tidy game from the Liverpool captain. He didn’t do anything wrong, but it is arguable that he needs to be doing more than merely sweeping up at the back and recycling possession to help influence the game.

Gini Wijnaldum – 8: This was Gini’s best game for months now as he found himself involved in everything at both ends of the pitch. He should’ve had an early goal when he made a great run, but Mane was unable to find him at the back post. Moments later he drove through several Porto players and then laid the ball off to Mane who bundled it past Sa.

James Milner – 9: Liverpool’s vice-captain assisted the second goal when he smashed the ball off the post from range where it, fortunately, fell to a calm Salah who tucked it into the back of the net. This was also Milner’s best game in a while as he was involved in the build-up for most of the goals and got direct assists for two of them.

Sadio Mane – 10 (Man of the Match): The out of sorts winger scored the first goal of a much-needed hat-trick only moments after failing to roll it to Wijnaldum for a certain tap -in. He swooped to score his second after Sa could only parry away Firmino’s low shot. His performance caught up with his goal tally in the second half, as demonstrated by some brilliant work in the build-up to Firmino’s goal and a screamer from outside the box. It is also worth noting that he also showed a marked improvement in his willingness and ability to drop back and assist Robertson at left-back when defending crosses.

Mo Salah – 9: The Egyptian magician showed remarkable composure and skill when he collected Milner’s rebound. He managed to take all the pace off the ball with his first touch, dink it over the ‘keeper with his second, head it forward with his third and finally directed the ball over the line with his fourth. He was a constant threat throughout the rest of the game as he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Roberto Firmino – 8: The Brazilian was relatively quiet in attack, but worked tirelessly for the team to help turn over possession. He was unable to get a good shot away on the break under pressure from two defenders, but Mane pounced on the rebound though to make it 3-0. His selfless toiling was duly rewarded with a goal of his own after some good link-up play with his teammates.

Subs

Joel Matip (on for Jordan Henderson – 74′) – N/A: Matip was again brought on as extra security to help see the game out, but Porto were already finished by that stage, and he had nothing at all to do.

Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold – 79′) – N/A: Gomez was also brought on to sure-up the defence, it was good to see him back so soon after his injury.

Danny Ings (on for Firmino – 79′) – N/A: It was a heart-warming sight to see Ings make his long-overdue Champions League debut after a nightmare run of injuries. Liverpool were well and truly in cruise control upon his introduction, although he still managed to pick up the assist for Mane’s third goal.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: After the third or fourth goals, Klopp probably should’ve taken the opportunity to give the likes of Firmino, Mane and Salah a well-earned rest and award players such as Solanke, Lallana and Ings crucial minutes. Substitutions aside though it was a virtually flawless night for Klopp and his men, a deserved reward for an outstanding performance and tactical implementation.

Talking Points

Mane Is Back

It had been coming for a many weeks now, but it’s still a massive relief that Mane has returned to form at such a crucial stage of the season. If he can maintain that sort of level for the rest of the season it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Liverpool can continue to climb the Premier League table and go far in the Champions League. This performance was a just reward for a player who has worked so hard over the last several games to try and regain momentum but was continually struck down by misfortune.

Improved Midfield Performance

Even though the Reds drew against Spurs and comfortably beat Southampton there was still concern over the noticeably toothless midfield. Both games feature fairly different combinations, and yet the same problems remained. The likes of Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum seemed incapable of controlling the midfield and struggled to impose themselves onto games. A much improved Milner and Wijnaldum against Porto was an encouraging sign that this combination, and perhaps with Can behind them, could be the one that finally addresses this ongoing issue.

Second-Leg a Dead Rubber

Of course, it’s never over until the final whistle, but you’d have to think that five away goals are more than enough to see the Reds through to the quarter-finals. With that in mind, hopefully Klopp will utilise this rare opportunity to rest certain players, in particular Mane, Salah and Firmino who will be expected to play every other game until the end of the season. Allowing them to recharge their batteries for the run in will have the added effect of allowing fringe players such as Solanke, Lallana, Ings or even Ben Woodburn extra minutes and experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have had. However, given his track record, Klopp will likely field a near full-strength team for the return leg regardless.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 15/02/2018.

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Porto vs Liverpool – Preview

Reds’ First UCL Knock-Out Clash in 9 Years

Porto

Team News

FC Porto head into the tie with some talented players missing through injury or suspension. Defensively Porto will be without Felipe, their best centre-back, through suspension and midfield enforcer Danilo Pereira may not return from injury in time for the first-leg. He is ordinarily crucial in allowing other players around him to venture forward as he covers for them. In attack they could be missing their greatest weapon as well, Vincent Aboubakar will be assessed before the game to see if he is fit enough to feature.

Predicted Lineup

porto

Despite these difficulties, Sergio Conceicao will still have a wealth of talent to chose from as he plots to head to Anfield in a strong position. Much like Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet at Liverpool, Iker Casillas and Jose Sa have had to share the goalkeeping position this season. Given the spectacle of the match though, Conceicao will likely rely upon the experience that Casillas possess to protect and organise a potentially makeshift back-line. Alex Telles and Ricardo Pereira will be the starting fullbacks, with Diego Reyes and Ivan Marcano in the middle. Marcano is also under an injury cloud though, so if he is also unable to play, then Porto’s defensive solidity will suffer greatly. In the midfield, Yacine Brahimi and Jesus Corona will flank Hector Herrera and Sergio Oliviera. Moussa Marega and Tiquinho Soares will spearhead the Porto attacking line.

Liverpool

Team News

Jurgen Klopp also has a couple of absences to deal with when deciding on his lineup. Emre Can is suspended, while Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan and Nathaniel Clyne have only just returned to varying degrees of training.

Predicted Lineup

portvsliv

Klopp all but confirmed that Karius would retain his place ahead of Mignolet, despite the fact that Karius played in most of the cup games when he was second-choice behind Mignolet. Dejan Lovren will likely be the only change to the defence that saw off Southampton. Joel Matip didn’t do enough to retain his place in my opinion, and it’s entirely possible the Klopp was either resting Lovren for this game or merely protecting him from a potentially volatile return to his former club. In the midfield, Jordan Henderson will replace Can while Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will probably retain their places mainly due to a lack of serious competition. James Milner is the only other realistic alternative as Adam Lallana is still toiling for fitness. The front three will, of course, remain the same.

Analysis

Porto are not a team to be underestimated by any stretch of the imagination. They’re quick, strong, well-organised and have a habit of winning. Most worryingly of all though, they excel at the very tactics that Liverpool struggle with, they can sit back comfortably and then destroy teams on the counter. They also have a few players who are dangerous from set-pieces, another weakness for Liverpool. Luckily though, some players who are integral that that system may be absent, or at least not operating at 100% for the game. It will be intriguing to see how Porto approach this game as they will surely feel that they must not head to Anfield in the second-leg at a deficit. Acknowledging that, they will either double-down on their defensive efforts to cover their lesser replacements and try to nick a narrow victory on the counter, or they will try and ambush Liverpool’s inconsistent defenders by playing far more aggressively in attack then they usually do. The first option seems far more likely though, as the latter would be playing right into the Reds’ hands, as long as they remain focused.

Liverpool on the other hand will undoubtedly approach this game in their usual, high-press, counter-attacking style. It is essential for the defenders to concentrate for the full 90 minutes as Porto certainly have the talent to punish any lapses from open play or from set-pieces. The midfield battle will be as crucial as ever, but even more so if Danilo Pereira is missing for Porto. If Liverpool can dominate the middle of the park, it will make Porto’s chances very few and far between. Liverpool’s attack is clearly their greatest strength, with Salah and Firmino in great form and even Mane is still dangerous despite being in somewhat of a slump. Salah in particular can turn one of Porto’s strengths, overlapping fullbacks, into a weakness. Telles, while being excellent going forward, is regarded as being occasionally suspect in defence and will undoubtedly leave space in behind for Salah to exploit at some stage. This will have the double effect creating chances for Liverpool, and pinning back one of Porto’s best attacking outlets.

Prediction

Porto’s missing players may prove to be too big a hurdle for them to overcome as an in-form Liverpool could tear them to shreds on a good night. Salah and Mane should find plenty of space behind their attacking-minded fullbacks, which could spell disaster for Porto if they turn the ball over. The big questions in this match will be: Can Liverpool’s defenders remain error-free over 90 minutes, and can Porto balance their tactics so they are not entirely exposed every time they attempt to attack? I believe Liverpool have the upper hand in this regard and, providing they all play to near their best, will return to Anfield ahead in the tie 3-1.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 14/02/2018.

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Southampton 0 – 2 Liverpool

Reds Hold Firm To See Off Saints

After a frustrating result against Spurs last week, Liverpool fans were desperate for a long overdue win at St. Mary’s. Jurgen Klopp opted to make a few changes due to the upcoming match against FC Porto, and Tottenham’s defeat of Arsenal and Manchester United’s loss against Newcastle only heightened the stakes in what was effectively a must-win game. The home fans tried to unsettle Liverpool’s defence by loudly booing Virgil Van Dijk every time he touched the ball, but it was the Saint’s defenders who cracked. After only five minutes Loris Karius was alert following a cross and quickly got the ball to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox tried to find Mo Salah, but it seemed as though Wesley Hoedt would clear the ball, unfortunately for the Dutchman, he couldn’t do so and Salah was able to nick it and lay it off to Roberto Firmino who slotted it past Alex McCarthy. Southampton seemed likely to equalise after a number of dangerous crosses, but just before half-time Firmino and Salah struck again after a beautiful backheel from the Brazilian put the Egyptian through for the second goal of the afternoon. The rest of the game was mostly uneventful in a nice change of pace for Liverpool fans who have become begrudgingly used to nail-biting finishes.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 8: One slightly unconvincing punch that could’ve ended badly early in the game was the only blight on another encouraging performance. Made himself big to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg one on one and pulled off another good save to deny James Ward-Prowse’s header. Had far less to do in the second-half, but dealt with everything that came to him comfortably. His distribution was also markedly more consistent than in previous games; a fact highlighted when he quickly released the Ox, causing the panic that led to Wesley Hoedt’s mistake. Another step in the right direction for the German ‘keeper.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: Targeted for most of the game as most attacks came down his side but the youngster stepped up to the plate impressively. Was understandably beaten in the air by Guido Carrillo early one, but luckily the header was driven straight at Karius. His only real mistake of the game came from an under-hit pass-back to Karius which put him under unnecessary pressure.

Joel Matip7: An awful miscontrol luckily led to nothing bar from embarrassment, but he quickly made amends by starting the move for the second goal. Was guilty of not dealing with a few crosses but was an essential part of the back-line that produced a much needed clean sheet.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: Booed mercilessly by the Southampton fans but remained calm and composed from the first minute until the last. Vocal throughout, he chastised his teammates when they were failing to deal with Southampton’s crosses, a true leader in both words and actions.

Andy Robertson – 8: Quiet for most of the first-half, but that was mainly due to most of Southampton’s attacks predominantly coming down the right. A more attacking minded fullback might’ve noticed this immediately and been more aggressive in pushing forward to support the front three. Perhaps having realised just that, he made a couple of good runs later in the half and was involved in the second goal. Put in a dangerous cross that almost saw Mane score a rare headed goal in the second-half.

Emre Can – 7: Mopped up well but didn’t offer too much aside from recycling possession. A loose touch led to him diving in on Oriol Romeu and picking up yet another yellow card. Can should be expected to do more to help win the midfield battle and impose himself onto games more regularly.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6: Extremely quiet first-half but could’ve had an assist if his teammates had been more alert to his excellent low ball to the back post. Bizarrely left the ball for Mane in the second half when he was in a far better position to shoot for goal himself. Was again unable to make his presence felt though, which was especially worrying considering his opponent, Mario Lemina, was battling illness.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 4: Did next to nothing in the first-half aside from his pass that was helped on by Hoedt before Liverpool’s first goal. He was also somewhat wasteful in possession again and was fairly hooked off by Klopp to give way to Milner. He did himself no favours if he wants a regular starting spot and may have to continue to settle for a rotational role.

Mo Salah – 9: The new King of the Kop showed great awareness and ability to set up the first goal. His movement was causing the Southampton defenders major headaches, and it paid off again after a lovely one-two with Firmino. He was harshly denied a chance earlier having been incorrectly judged to have handled the ball in the box. He then created another couple of opportunities for his teammates in the second-half and almost scored another. A truly extraordinary talent, hopefully he stays for many years to come.

Sadio Mane 6: Had a couple of half-chances in the first-half, but nothing he should be losing sleep over. Admirably is still not visibly allowing this ‘slump’ to affect his confidence as evidenced by an ambitious acrobatic attempt on goal. He was close to scoring with his head and almost assisted Firmino in the second half. Mane was only guilty of being wasteful once when he opted to shoot far too late when the chance to pass or shoot early was on. However, the biggest criticism of Mane has to stem from his lack of defensive awareness when he continually left Robertson exposed in the first-half. Surely a return to top form is just around the corner for the Senegalese winger though.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): Excellent first-time finish for the first goal, he then returned the favour to Salah with an unbelievable back-heel assist. The Brazilian was popping up everywhere on the pitch in both attacking and defensive situations; he’s a truly invaluable player to this Liverpool system. Had two penalty shouts in the first-half, one was correctly not given, but the second could’ve easily been given on another day despite Firmino going down very easily. Perhaps if he was wearing a Spurs jersey…

Subs

James Milner (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain- 61’) – 6: Brought on for the underwhelming Oxlade-Chamberlain to organise the team and help see out the game.

Adam Lallana (on for Firmino – 78’) – 5: Came on to give Firmino a well-earned rest ahead of a critical back-end of the season. Failed to score from seven yards when gifted a chance by Salah.

Dejan Lovren (on for Salah – 89′) – N/A: Brought on as extra security when the Reds had already firmly taken control of the game.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: A careful balance needed to be struck with the lineup: give as many players a rest as possible without jeopardising the result, and Klopp did so perfectly. His midfielders struggled in the first-half to take control of the game, and the defenders similarly weren’t coping with Southampton’s crosses. Seeing this, Klopp addressed both issues through his half-time talk and substitutions. He sensibly brought off the Ox after 60 minutes, a welcome sight in the sense that Klopp has often been criticised for leaving his substitutions too little time to make an impact.

Talking Points

Reds Finally See Out a Narrow Lead With Ease

In a somewhat uncharacteristic display, Liverpool were able to see out a game professionally, and in all honesty, they hardly looked like letting it slip. In stark contrast to previous games, Liverpool seemed to get more composed and in control as the game went on, it seemed inevitable that Southampton would be left goalless. Of course, the Saints had their chances in the first-half, and perhaps the Reds were arguably lucky to go into the break with a 2-0 lead. However, the second half showed a new side to this Liverpool team that hopefully is the beginning of a new trend. It will need to be if the Reds want to go on to win silverware in the near future.

Firmino and Salah Magic

Salah has been endlessly praised by all football fans this season despite the ludicrous notion that he would flop as he supposedly did at Chelsea. To be well and truly in the shout for top-goalscorer from a wide position is a remarkable achievement for any player, let alone one that also creates countless chances for his teammates and is not a regular set-piece taker. Firmino on the other hand rarely receives widespread praise, or at least not to the extent that Liverpool fans know he deserves. Surely this has to change sooner or later because regardless of Salah’s goals, it is Firmino that makes this team tick. Hopefully his continued underappreciation from those outside of the Liverpool fanbase will mean that no other teams try and persuade him to move on like his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.

Champions League Football

There’s little time to celebrate an excellent result as the focus now turns to Champions League football on two fronts. There’s the midweek fixture in Portugal against the dangerous Porto and the battle for the remaining three Champions League places rages on after that. The likes of Mignolet, Lovren, Moreno, Milner and Jordan Henderson will be fresh after a rest and raring to go if selected; and Joe Gomez could return along with Lallana. It is crucial to get a good result in the first-leg in order to gain progression into the quarter-finals. West Ham meanwhile will be able to sit back and plot as they seek to snatch a result in the next league game at Anfield. Manchester United and Arsenal both lost their respective fixtures but the race is far from over, and Liverpool will have to maintain extremely high standards to finish the season off strongly and secure a top-four finish.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 12/02/2018.

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Southampton vs Liverpool – Preview

Another Tough Test at St. Mary’s

Southampton

Team News

Southampton have no new injury concerns but will continue to be without Charlie Austin and Matt Targett, although it is questionable whether either would’ve made the starting XI anyway.

Predicted Lineup

southampton

Mauricio Pellegrino, who made 12 appearances for Liverpool and spent four years at Anfield as a coach under Rafa Benitez, will most likely pick the same team that defeated West Brom last week. The likes of Maya Yoshida and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will probably have to settle for the bench, while Steven Davies is another option in midfield or behind the striker. Guido Carrillo will make only his second appearance for the club since his move from Monaco and should start ahead of both Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini.

Liverpool

Team News

Joe Gomez is the only new injury to crop up for Liverpool, a slight knock to the knee will see him miss this game, while Nathaniel Clyne remains out of the picture. Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana could all potentially return to the squad after rejoining the team in training.

Predicted Lineup

SotvsLiv

Another tricky lineup to predict as Jurgen Klopp will undoubtedly have one eye on the midweek fixture against FC Porto in the Champions League. Southampton away is never an easy game though, and St. Mary’s is a ground where Klopp has struggled in the past. Klopp will rotate certain players, but will likely avoid sacrificing his front three. Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson, James Milner and Jordan Henderson could all be rested while Moreno, Joel Matip, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could return to the starting XI. If Klopp wanted to take this rotation even further, then the likes of Simon Mignolet, Klavan, Lallana, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings could be considered, but are less likely to feature, at least not from a starting position.

Analysis

Unlike previous seasons under different managers, it is unlikely that Southampton will look to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. Pellegrino often plays more adventurous football against the bigger sides, and like Klopp often struggles against teams who do sit deep. However, despite being unbeaten in six games Southampton may seek to revert to their old ways in search of a vital draw as they find themselves only one point clear of the relegation zone. The likes of Mario Lemina and James Ward-Prowse are in top form and will be crucial to any success that Southampton may have in the game.

Liverpool need to produce a victory against a side who have become somewhat of a bogey team in recent years. Anything other than a win could potentially see the Reds slide into fifth place by the end of the round. Liverpool will hope to exploit holes left in the defence if Southampton attempt to drive forward through the likes of Lemina and Ward-Prowse. If they sit back though, some magic from the front three will be required to unlock their stubborn defence.

Prediction

The result of this game will largely depend upon the tactics employed by Pellegrino and the amount of squad rotation that Klopp feels comfortable implementing. If Klopp fields a strong side and Pellegrino opts to play openly, then there is no reason Liverpool can’t punish the Saints. However, I’m expecting a tighter game, one that ends in a hard-earned, but ultimately comfortable 2-0 victory to the Reds.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 11/02/2018.

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Liverpool 2 – 2 Tottenham

Courageous Reds Denied by Questionable Refereeing

While not necessarily a disastrous result for either side, neither set of supporters would’ve been overjoyed with a draw before the game. Throughout the game though, you would forgive any fan for taking a draw at various stages, like a Leicester fan cashing out of a bet in late 2015/16. Liverpool took the lead in the third minute when Mo Salah pounced on an Eric Dier mistake. The Reds were teasing another high profile thrashing, but it was Spurs who went on to dominate the majority of the remaining minutes. Liverpool, uncharacteristically, sat deep and invited Spurs to advance, and despite a few hairy moments were able to repel most attacks. Victor Wanyama’s booming effort inevitably levelled the scores and seemed to crush any hopes of a Liverpool victory. A mistake by Dejan Lovren let an offside Harry Kane through who appeared to dive over a Loris Karius challenge to win a penalty. Karius saved the penalty to spare the Reds from conceding a goal that never should’ve stood anyway, but Salah went one better, scoring a magical goal in the 91st minute to give Liverpool a hard-fought if somewhat undeserved win. The officials weren’t finished though and belatedly awarded Erik Lamela a penalty after he theatrically fell to the ground from minimal contact by Virgil Van Dijk. Kane scored his 100th Premier League goal, much to Liverpool’s fury and heartbreak.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 8: A remarkable and admirable night from a ‘keeper under immense pressure where the only reasonable criticism of him could be his inconsistent distribution. Consistently dealt with Spurs’ attacks, making some crucial saves, including denying Heung-Min Son and Kane in one-on-one situations. Karius has received some criticism for punching the ball into the path of Wanyama for the first goal, but this critique is misguided. He couldn’t risk catching the ball as Lamela was waiting a yard away, ready to pounce on any mistake, and his punching clearance managed to clear the ball at least 25 yards away, it was just unfortunate it fell to a Tottenham player who caught the ball perfectly. His penalty heroics against Kane were unjustly undone by poor officiating. If Karius can maintain this level of form and confidence, he may retain his place in goal beyond this season.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5: A surprise return to the first-team for the youngster, given Joe Gomez’s excellent form, but the academy player was virtually faultless throughout. TAA took a hefty challenge early from Ben Davies which might’ve warranted a yellow card, but the young lad didn’t shy away and responded with a few stern tackles of his own. His crossing was mostly superb and on another day could’ve had an assist to his name. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pick who Liverpool’s starting right-back should be.

Dejan Lovren – 7: Lovren produced another fine display and was capable in the air. He had to deal with a lot of pressure throughout the game, and despite one hiccup, was mostly steadfast. Unfortunately, the one mistake in question was quite poor and did lead to a penalty, but he has done enough to continue being picked as Van Dijk’s partner.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: Another player who had an excellent game undone by one error, only in Van Dijk’s case, there’s an argument to be made that it was instead the linesman who was at fault. For 99% of the game, he was a towering leader at the back and was displaying exactly why Jurgen Klopp paid so much for him. For the penalty, Lamela jumped in front of him from behind as he was swinging for the ball, and the big Dutchman even pulled out, but Lamela was successful in seeking minimal contact and threw himself to the ground.

Andy Robertson – 7: You could almost copy and paste analysis’ of Robertson’s performances over the past weeks, another solid game. The only criticism that could be attributed to him was that his crossing was unusually poor on the night. Did well to force Spurs to mostly focus their attacks down the right-hand-side as they were unprepared to allow Trippier to continue to be bested by our Robbo.

Jordan Henderson – 6: Henderson was deservedly picked to start this game after his strong showing against Huddersfield, but in hindsight, it may not have been the best decision. Through no fault of his own, Henderson was restricted to a simple game of sweeping up second balls and recycling possession. His lack of game time was his greatest downfall as his fatigue began to show and the likes of Dele Alli and Son took advantage of it. He also could’ve done more to contest the midfield battle as Tottenham spent large portions of the game parked in Liverpool’s half.

Emre Can – 6.5: Can fared slightly better than his captain in the midfield, but was similarly unable to halt the Spurs onslaught. It is puzzling that the midfield trio that was picked struggled so badly in this regard, given they are undoubtedly Liverpool’s best defensive-minded midfielders.

James Milner – 6: Milner was strangely selected as the most advanced of the midfield three, despite being considerably slower than the other two. Many were expecting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Gini Wijnaldum to take his place for this game, but Milner hardly let his team down by anyone’s reckoning. His biggest downfall was that he, like Henderson faded as the game went on and Spurs were able to capitalise on that. He was also guilty of giving away some silly fouls in dangerous positions, unusual for the experienced England international.

Sadio Mane – 6: Poor Mane. He always seems so close to rediscovering his form, and yet it just eludes him. His pace and movement again caused problems throughout and he could’ve gone through on goal late in the first half if Salah’s pass was better. To be fair though, he also cost Salah a chance when his wayward pass took the wind out of the sails of a counter-attack in the second half. Desperately needs goals to help him push through this mental block he’s having.

Mo Salah – 8 (Man of the Match): Some players only stand up when everything is going right for them and their team, not Salah. He was able to score two vital goals for his team when they needed him most, and moreover, when he wasn’t at his individual best. For most of the game, barring the goals, Salah didn’t produce anything to worry the likes of Jan Vertonghen. His second goal will go down as one of the very best of the season, despite its status as a match winner being unfairly stripped away.

Roberto Firmino – 6: A rare subdued performance from Liverpool’s number 9. In fairness to him, he received minimal service and was reduced to doing the donkey’s work of chasing down Tottenham’s back line, but he seemed far from his best even when he did receive the ball.

Subs

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (on for Mane – 64′) – 4: This time around The Ox was given plenty of time to make an impact, but failed to do so. He was incredibly wasteful in possession and arguably could’ve reacted quicker in the build-up to Wanyama’s equaliser.

Gini Wijnaldum (on for Henderson – 64′) – 4: Had the same amount of game time as The Ox but did even less of note. No impact.

Joel Matip (on for Milner – 78′) – 6: Came on to sure up Liverpool’s defence and did his job to a satisfactory degree despite the end result.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Dominic Solanke, Danny Ings 

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 8: Klopp’s lineup and tactics could not be faulted for this game, at least not in the build-up to it. Through the benefit of hindsight, the argument could be made that he should’ve known that Henderson and Milner would not be able to keep up with the pace of such a fierce game given their lack of game time. When his side began to tire though, he swiftly brought on fresh legs to try and reclaim the midfield. He cannot be blamed for his substitutions inability to do so, and other individual errors, particularly from the referees. Was rightly furious at the officials during and after the game, but admirably managed to keep his cool and avoid retrospective action in the post-game press conference.

Talking Points

Diving Spurs and Bottling Officials

Of course, few Liverpool fans could seriously argue that Liverpool should have walked away with all three points given the respective performances of both sides. It’s unquestionable that Spurs dominated the majority of the game and that Liverpool were mostly on the back foot. That doesn’t change the fact though that Liverpool fought bravely and were ultimately undone by a lucky strike from a defensive-midfielder not known for his ability to shoot and an awful decision from a linesman. The referee, who had a better view of the incident, called for play to continue until the linesman appealed to overturn his decision. Even the officials can’t be entirely blamed for bottling the decisions. The Spurs players were consistently trying to deceive them including Kane, Lamela and Alli who was booked for blatant simulation. Knowing that they were continuously doing this and even more so in the desperate final stages, it is baffling that the linesman gave a decision like that in a situation that was 50/50 at best.

Calls For VAR

Whenever incidents of this nature occur in a high-profile game, legions of furious fans demanding VAR follow. I am, generally speaking, not one of them, as I believe the system has the potential to cause more problems that it solves, but it is difficult to hold that position when your own team has been so clearly wronged. Even former referees and former Spurs players, including Howard Webb and Jermaine Jenas respectively, questioned the decision when viewing the replay in the aftermath of the game. Perhaps after the season finishes, I will write a full article discussing the pros and cons of VAR, but it is not clear as of this moment whether VAR would’ve changed this particular decision. There was contact, albeit minimal, so despite common sense dictating an overturn of the decision, I’m not sure there would’ve been enough evidence to do so by the books.

The Road Ahead and Battle for Top-Four

As stated earlier, a draw against Tottenham is not a disaster by any means, but it does mean that Liverpool have reduced the margin for error somewhat. Instead of being four points clear of them, the Reds are only two points ahead with 12 games remaining. Spurs will not be slowing down as they seek to gain a crucial place in next year’s Champions League. Arsenal too will fancy their chances as they recruited well in January and produced an outstanding display on the weekend. Luckily though, Chelsea are in poor form and their heavy defeat against Watford sees Liverpool retain 3rd place, ahead by one point. Liverpool’s last-16 matches against FC Porto in the Champions League loom on the horizon as Klopp will need to start rotating his squad to achieve the best results. Liverpool’s upcoming league games include Southampton (Away), West Ham (Home), Newcastle (Home), followed by another fixture which could shape the top four, Manchester United (Away).

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 06/02/2018.

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Liverpool vs Tottenham – Preview

Crucial Clash at Anfield

Liverpool

Team News

Liverpool’s squad has been scaled-back somewhat during the transfer window, and despite a couple of absences, there are also a few players who are available to return to the fold. Ragnar Klavan and Adam Lallana will most likely not feature, but Alberto Moreno and Virgil Van Dijk could return.

Predicted Lineup

LivTotLine

Loris Karius, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez will retain their places, but the centre-back pairing could be changed. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren helped to keep a clean sheet against Huddersfield, but it is hard to imagine that Jurgen Klopp would not pick Van Dijk if he is fit. The midfield will be the hardest area of the pitch to predict due to recently returned players as well as the form of others. Emre Can, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have been hot and cold in the last few weeks, whereas both Jordan Henderson and James Milner greatly impressed in their first starts in a long time. There are arguments to be made for a number of midfield combinations here, but the one listed above is what I believe to be currently the strongest and is what Klopp will likely go with. The front three pick themselves despite Mane’s shaky form.

Tottenham

Team News

Tottenham will have also some returning players to potentially call on to make their return. The likes of Toby Alderweireld, Harry Winks and Serge Aurier have returned to training, but it is unknown whether this game will be too soon for all or some of them to feature. Spurs have also acquired the services of the talented Lucas Moura, but Mauricio Pochettino has hinted that he is unlikely to debut at Anfield.

Predicted Lineup

LivTotLineTot

Pochettino claimed in his press conference that his team will be looking to attack Liverpool despite the danger that the Reds present going forward. Whether or not this claim proves to be entirely true will largely dictate the team that starts at Anfield. Alderweireld and Aurier may find themselves on the bench after only just returning, but Danny Rose should come in for Ben Davies after sitting on the bench for the victory over Manchester United. Other than this, Tottenham’s defence should look the same as it did in the previous game. In the midfield, Eric Dier will retain his place while Moussa Dembele could make way for Victor Wanyama if Pochettino decides to sacrifice an attacking option for defensive solidity. Similarly the front four should remain the same for Spurs. However, Moussa Sissoko could be preferred instead of Heung-Min Son due to his ability to get back and assist the defence.

Analysis

Liverpool will predictably seek to keep the game at a frantic tempo both on and off the ball. It will be vital for the Reds to cut off the supply to Spurs’ formidable attacking players by hounding the likes of Wanyama and Dier, forcing them to commit errors. Salah and Mane will attempt to test the concentration of the Tottenham defence, aided by the movement of Roberto Firmino. Should Rose be missing from the starting lineup, then the task should become somewhat less difficult. If Liverpool can rattle Tottenham early, there’s every chance that this could turn into a repeat of the first 60 minutes against Manchester City.

 

Tottenham’s approach is certainly less predictable, but they will be confident regardless of the tactics chosen. Harry Kane will undoubtedly be the key if they want to get a result, but the threats of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son cannot be ignored. Jan Vertonghen is an outstanding centre-back in typically excellent form, but his task at Anfield will be considerably greater than some of the other challenges he’s faced. One of his fiercest challenges surprisingly stems from Liverpool’s defence rather than attack. Van Dijk’s considerable aerial presence could cause Spurs problems as they, like Liverpool, are guilty of conceding cheap goals from set pieces at times.

Prediction

This is a tough game to call. There’s solid arguments for either side, making a draw distinctly possibile as well. However, there are a number of factors that I believe give Liverpool the edge. Firstly, Liverpool will be out for revenge after the mauling in the reverse fixture. Secondly, Spurs record at Anfield is quite poor, having not won there in over seven years. Lastly, Liverpool would appear to have the stylistic advantage as Spurs do not stack up as well if they were to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Reds as the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City tried and failed to do. As long as Liverpool’s defenders remain focused, the likes of Salah, Firmino and hopefully a resurgent Mane should be able to do the rest. Liverpool will run out convincing 3 – 1 winners thanks to a Mane brace and a Firmino clincher overshadowing Kane’s 100th Premier League goal.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 04/02/2018.

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