After humiliating Maribor 7-0 and setting a new record for the biggest away win in Europe two weeks ago, can Liverpool put their Premier League stutters behind them and stay top of Group E? By Kris Gourlay
In a match that I myself will be attending, and with the abysmal 4-1 thrashing by Spurs still fresh in the fans memories, Liverpool should better impress. Klopp’s team humbled Maribor two weeks ago with a 7-0 victory, in what was a weird game. Liverpool’s performance wasn’t particularly thrilling, Maribor’s was just rather awful, as if they all had forgotten the basic rules of defending.
The game two weeks ago was an entertaining one nonetheless, with Mohamed Salah continuing his flying start in Liverpool red by scoring two and Firmino breaking his miserable goal duck by grabbing two real poacher’s goals. There was also a notable scorer in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, his first for Liverpool and from the moment he came on, you could tell it was coming. Coutinho and Alexander-Arnold also notched to complete a rugby-like score of 7-0.
So, going on that game, the same team visiting Anfield don’t stand a chance, do they? But nothing is ever as easy as that with Liverpool. With notable absentees in Coutinho, Mane, Lallana and Clyne, Klopp faces a tough decision in who to start the game and will be praying for an easy night for his calamity of a back four. Liverpool may well be there for the taking, or so Maribor boss Marko Milanic will be thinking.
Klopp’s team selections have really irked the fans recently, so it will be interesting to see who he gives the nod to in attack with the absence of Coutinho. On Saturday against Huddersfield, Klopp went with Daniel Sturridge, who returned the manager’s faith with his 100th career goal but with completing ninety minutes a thing of the past for Sturridge, may two starts in the space of a week be too much for the fragile striker?
This may make room for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first full start for Liverpool, as all his appearances so far have come from the substitutes bench. Ragnar Klavan may also have to fill in a centre-back as Dejan Lovren sat out of the clash with Huddersfield after tweaking a muscle in the warm-up so Wednesday may come too soon for the Croat (not that I’m complaining).
The ongoing mystery of left-back Andy Robertson continues as everyone bar Alberto Moreno is getting a rest, surely after starting eight out of ten Premier League games and every Champions League game, Robertson can get a rare start, but I would not be surprised to see Moreno retained.
Goalkeeper Loris Karius looks set to retain his Champions League starting spot as Klopp continues to rotate keepers, although Mignolet has come under serious criticism once again after a vital error leading to Spurs goal last week. Klopp’s reluctance to punish individual incompetence looks set to continue as he still stuck with Mignolet and Lovren (until injury) against Huddersfield, but surely Mignolet has reached his peak and as the club’s future number one, Karius should be integrated into the starting eleven, week in-week out.
Klopp saw the defeat to Spurs as a real cause for concern, and rounded up all his players the next day at Melwood to go through the goals conceded in detail. The loss to Spurs put the Reds twelve points behind Man City after nine games, which is considerably below par. Even with their horrible luck with injuries, nobody can say Klopp’s team aren’t under-achieving so far this season.
Liverpool are currently top of Group E on goal difference after the demolition job on Maribor, a factor that could come useful as joint group favourites Sevilla were shocked by Spartak Moscow, losing 5-1 and leaving the group wide open. Another good goal count to nil would certainly shift the winner of group in favour of the reds with two games remaining. With an injury-plagued team and a shaky defence, there is no doubt the clash will be an entertaining one but I’m sure Klopp will field a team more than capable of seeing off Maribor.
Predicted Team: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Lovren/Klavan, Moreno, Henderson, Can, Wijnaldum, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah, Firmino