Talking Points: Red Star Belgrade 2 Liverpool 0

Another dreadful performance from Liverpool allowed Red Star to stun their opponents by claiming a 2-0 victory. Two first-half goals gave the hosts the advantage, and superb defending saw them see out a comfortable win.

Klopp must use defeat as wake-up call for season…

A little over 12 months ago Liverpool had just been demolished 4-1 by Tottenham at Wembley. The result was a huge wake-up call for Liverpool’s season and saw the Reds go on an 18-match unbeaten streak in all competitions which featured 13 wins. Tactical tweaks were made and on-pitch performances improved. The defeat to Red Star needs to be last season’s Spurs defeat, and generate a massive improvement in performance. For the whole season now there has barely been a handful of good and complete team performances. There have been lots of wins, but unconvincing ones, and fans knew that eventually, either performances would massively improve or the luck would run out and wins would dry up. Unfortunately, it has been the latter, with just three victories in the Reds’ last nine matches and performances in some games being as bad as matches from the Roy Hodgson era. Klopp must rally his troops and turn things around before Liverpool’s great start to the season is wasted.

4-3-3 formation needs to be put back on the shelf…

To put it simply, at least one of Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Xherdan Shaqiri must be starting in every Liverpool game for the rest of the season. The trio are the Reds’ only current sources of creativity in the midfield, and with Oxlade-Chamberlain out for likely the whole season, that leaves Keita and Shaqiri to supply the creative ammunition. Now, to get the best out of the pair, a 4-2-3-1 must be considered, especially with the 4-3-3 system offering absolutely nothing currently. A midfield three of runners needs to be swapped for a double-pivot of quality, and Fabinho and Keita, the two midfielders of quality that were purchased in the summer, are the duo for this. Add in Shaqiri as an attacking midfielder, Salah back to his original position on the right and Firmino up-front and you have yourself a midfield and attack of quality footballers who can control matches and dictate play. The likes of Adam Lallana will simply no longer cut the mustard, and while James Milner and Jordan Henderson can produce good performances more often than not, they are not the same ilk of Fabinho or Keita. Midfield has been the biggest issue recently, as seen against Red Star, and things need to be changed.

Wasteful finishing again fails to bail Reds out…

Against Arsenal, a draw was probably a fair result. However, if the likes of Virgil Van Dijk or Roberto Firmino had been more clinical and taken their chances, then Klopp’s side could have snatched a possibly underserved victory even though they weren’t at their best. Against Red Star it was a similar story. Liverpool deserved to lose, but they created more chances than their opponents, and if the chances spurned by Daniel Sturridge, Joel Matip and Mo Salah were taken then, again, Liverpool could have come away with underserved points. Football isn’t always a fair game, Liverpool know that better than most, and sometimes you may be the better team but still lose. For the Reds it needs to be the opposite on occasions, taking points and wins when they weren’t the better side, and if they can improve their finishing even slightly, we could start to see it. Mo Salah has still scored goals this season so he can’t be criticised too heavily, but Sadio Mane and in particular Roberto Firmino, who has been extremely off the boil this campaign, need to start chipping in more and finding their best form.

All to play for in Group C…

Napoli’s 1-1 draw with PSG in the group’s other game on Tuesday night means the Italians return to the top of the group as they have a better head-to-head record than Liverpool. Both sides are on six points, with PSG on five and Red Star on four. Now while Red Star clearly shouldn’t be underestimated and could well throw another spanner in the works, let’s presume that they lose to both PSG and Napoli in their remaining two games. This would then leave the following scenarios for Liverpool’s final two games…

-Lose v PSG means Liverpool MUST beat Napoli 2-1 or by 2+ goals to progress, and would progress in 2nd.

-Draw v PSG means Liverpool MUST beat Napoli to progress, and would progress in 1st.

-Win v PSG means Liverpool progress, with a draw or loss v Napoli seeing Liverpool progress in 2nd, or a win v Napoli seeing Liverpool progress in 1st.

As mentioned, Red Star may claim more points and things could be different. But no matter what happens, the Reds must remain focused on their two remaining matches and get the job done, whatever permutations are required.

 

 

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