Two games to define Liverpool’s season

By Monday morning, Liverpool fans will be able to reflect on an excellent few days or yet another wasted season.

Since the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona in 2014, expectations on Merseyside have significantly decreased. No matter what any Liverpool fan tells you, we all know that fourth is a tough ask and winning a trophy is just as daunting.

Even with Jurgen Klopp at the helm now, this season may be over within the next four days.

Liverpool face a tough task: play Augsburg tonight at Anfield, with a win a must to ensure passage to the next round of the Europa League, and then travel to Wembley on Sunday to contest the Capital One Cup with Manchester City.

These results will define the season.

Thursday: Liverpool v Augsburg

Whatever was the case before, any club would want to win the Europa League. As well as an over-sized trophy waiting for you on the podium, a place in next year’s Champions League is also on offer.

It is nothing to scoff at and for Liverpool, who are struggling in the league for consistency and currently sit eighth and nine points off fourth spot, it is the best way to try and force themselves back onto Europe’s biggest stage.

Klopp’s arrival will hopefully be a pivotal moment in Liverpool’s history. Reds’ supporters will be praying his capture will represent the beginning of the return to winning titles and trophies, but the German’s job would be made so much easier if Liverpool won the Europa League.

Big players are needed at Liverpool all across the pitch and big players want European football. For the top brass, Europa League just does not cut it.

Winning tonight is a priority in terms of Liverpool’s campaign, it is just so unfortunate it comes just four days before the season’s equally crucial game.

Sunday: Liverpool v Manchester City

With the first major silverware of the season up for grabs and Liverpool already out of the FA Cup, nothing welcomes a new era like a trophy in the cabinet.

Klopp does not need to win on Sunday, but everyone wants him to. Otherwise what will this season be seen as? A pass for the German, considering Brendan Rodgers was still in charge in October?

For many Liverpool supporters, myself included, this cup is all we have left of this term. It has been great having Klopp come in and give us entertainment, but his players have also given some pretty poor performances. It has not been the total transformation everyone was dreaming of.

And of course that has to do with the players. Klopp is expected to make changes when the transfer window officially re-opens in July and has already begun to try and address the shambles at the back with the announcement that Schalke defender Joel Matip will join in the summer.

But Liverpool can usher in a new wave of confidence and optimism if they win on Sunday and it will strike off the possibility of Merseysiders thinking ‘oh well there’s another season down the drain then’.

Selection crisis

No one wants to be Klopp right now. Two games in four days of equal importance and Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana are all out with key figures Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho only just back from hamstring problems.

What team does he pick? Does he go full throttle or does he risk one over the other. Most people would be hoping that the Reds can easily brush aside Augsburg tonight, but they have failed to do that in their last two appearances at the this stage of the competition, losing to Zenit Saint Petersburg in 2013 and going out on penalties last year to Besiktas.

Klopp has said he will risk both Sturridge and Coutinho in both games and he will be praying that with an hour gone tonight he can haul the two star men off with the game safe.

You can understand his thinking. The two footballers are by far Liverpool’s best players and when they play, the Reds are able to move from a mid-table team to possible top four contenders. What does it matter if come Monday they are injured for the season? There will not be anything to play for anyway if Liverpool lose both games.

Prediction

1-0 v Ausburg

1-1 v Manchester City (Liverpool win on penalties AET)

 

 

 

 

From Anfield to Etihad: from a familiar feeling to a complete revival

From defeat at the hands of Liverpool’s recent nemesis to completely annihilating the team that will most likely win the league, it was a whirlwind two weeks for Jurgen Klopp’s new Liverpool.

It has become a familiar Anfield tune whenever Crystal Palace face off with the Reds, the less said about the defeat the better.

The Eagles worry not about a change in management or alteration in philosophy, they’ll beat any Liverpool team these days. Liverpool had almost 65% of the possession and smashed 22 shots goalwards, but managed just one goal over the 90 and four shots on target.

Palace also produced four shots on target, but from just nine shots and they snatched two goals. A lack of potency? Defiantly, it is the bane of every football club across the universe (unless you have Luis Suarez or Robert Lewandoski in your team). Mostly though it is because Palace had a better game plan and they had the confidence to execute it.

Scott Dann, an apparent life-long Liverpool fan, headed home from a corner to condemn Klopp to his first defeat as manager. It was a rude awakening after the superb display at Chelsea the week before. Much was debated about the hoard that spilled out when the 82nd minute goal went in, but for many Liverpool fans it was a performance far too reminiscent of Brendan Rodgers’ reign of possession football and goalless efforts.

A two week break unlike any other followed. So much more mattered during that interval than football, but because sport has a unique ability to make a statement it played an important role during the English show of solidarity with France at Wembley.

Saturday welcomed the return of the Premier League and for Liverpool supporters, the visit to Manchester City was far from ideal. The Citizens hadn’t exactly been unstoppable before the break, two goalless draws capped off an uninspiring run of form, but they were still City. They had Sergio Aguero back and Kevin De Bruyne had six goals and seven assists since exploding into life in the absence of David Silva.

The fact that from the opening minute until the final whistle, Liverpool completely dominated City was the surprise of the season so far. Winning 4-1 away from home at the Etihad Stadium? It’s unprecedented, literally the last tome City conceded four at home was in 2003.

Roberto Firmino finally burst into life and Philippe Coutinho was untouchable at his most wonderful self. Adam Lallana and James Milner must have burst at least one lung each. It was a perfect Klopp performance.

Pressing and potency. What else could you want? It was miles away from the Palace defeat and was the best way to begin a winter schedule that will only get harder.

Man of the moment: Philippe Coutinho

Want to know how good Coutinho is? Three shots, three chances created, one assist and one goal in 68 minutes. Pretty classy. He has four goals in five appearances against City and four in three league games. He optimises the full throttle Liverpool Klopp is creating. The magician buzzed around City’s defence all night and robbed Bacary Sagna on the wing in the led up to Liverpool’s first goal. Raheem Sterling who? Hell, Steven Gerrard who? (No I retract that).

Two weeks in one player : Roberto Firmino

Dropped for the Palace game and then a five star display against City. The transformation of the summer signing in the 14 days was quite remarkable. He started yesterday and tormented alongside Coutinho and Lallana upfront with the weight of goal duty seeming light upon his shoulders. A debut goal and a scrumptous assists for his Brazilian buddy, his attitude and determination summed up Liverpool’s instant revival.

 

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3: Coutinho fires Klopp to first win

Jurgen Klopp got his first league win as Liverpool manager as his side beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The result leaves Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho clinging to his post as the Blues suffer their sixth defeat of their title defending season, while Liverpool get their first league win in five attempts.

Ramires had given Chelsea a dream start when he headed home from close range in the 4th minute, but in the dying seconds of the first half Phillippe Coutinho twisted and turned until releasing an unstoppable curling effort to bring Liverpool level.

The Brazilian was the star of Liverpool’s performance, getting his first goal since the opening day win at Stoke, and was again too nimble for Chelsea’s defenders when his spinning shot was taken out of Asmir Begovic’s reach thanks to a slight deflection.

Substitute Christian Benteke then made good the points in the 83rd minute as Liverpool scored more than two goals for only the third time in 2015.

Two great managers, two polar fortunes

Klopp and Mourinho represent two of the greatest managers of the modern age. The German led Borussia Dortmund out of a ten year slump to win back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011, while Mourinho has an unbelievable 22 titles to his name. But incredibly Mourinho has presided over Chelsea’s worst ever season, with the Blues sitting in 15th just a mere four points above the bottom three.

It makes for dire reading for Chelsea’s most illustrious manager and it leaves footballing wondering will the ‘Special One’ soon become the sacked one? Mourinho stands defiant as he refuses to resign.

Any other coach would be long gone, but with the fans’ support behind him and owner Roman  Abramovich’s backing, the Portuguese will be given more time because he is still simply the best man for the job.

The question is how long is Abramovich willing to wait? Does Mourinho’s attitude post-match suggest he is eager to rebuild Chelsea again?

Coutinho gets Klopp going in style

The Brazilian has seemed a shadow of his former superb self in recent weeks. Dropped from Brazil’s squad and without a goal in over 700 minutes, Liverpool’s best player shook off his slumber against Chelsea.

Away from home, Klopp’s side didn’t panic when the conceded early on and were in full control of the match when Coutinho expertly faked to shoot and delicately placed a left-foot shot into the far corner. He then put Liverpool ahead with 16 minutes left.

His individual class was the decisive feature of a Liverpool team that might have outrun a Chelsea side, but needed that final touch in the box.

Klopp’s style of play seems to be finally transmitting on the field as the Reds worked tirelessly for 90 minutes. With a player of Coutinho’s class along with Benteke’s finishing, Klopp’s team have two footballers good enough to make the hard-fought opportunities count.

Sturridge needs to be left to the sidelines

It may sting every fan on Merseyside, but Liverpool need a striker that they can rely on. With 16 goals in 21 appearances and two goals in two league games, Benteke is that player.

With just one major injury in three years in England, the bulldozer missed six months last year with a ruptured achilles tendon, Benteke is not only a sure fitness bet, he is a prolific goalscorer.

The 24-year-old has yet to approach his peak and made Gary Cahill and John Terry look like pensioners when he came on. He assisted and scored, what more could you want from a 25 minute cameo?

Moment of the match

Coutinho’s equaliser gave a Liverpool revival it’s bite as he eluded every Chelsea defender on the edge of the box and swung the game in Klopp’s favour.

Man of the match: Philippe Coutinho

In the first game since 2008 that two Brazilians have scored for each side, it was Liverpool’s little magician that grabbed the game by the throat.

Line-ups:

Chelsea XI: Begovic, Zouma, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Falcao 76′), Ramires, Mikel Booked (Fàbregas 70′), Willian, Hazard (Kenedy 59′), Oscar, Diego Cost.

Substitutes: Fabregas, Baba, Falcoa, Kenedy, Remy, Matic, Amelia.

Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Milner (Benteke 64′), Lucas, Can, Lallana (Lovren 91′), Coutinho, Firmino (Ibe 76′).

Substitutes: Bogdan, Lovren, Ibe, Benteke, Allan, Randall, J. Teixeira.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (had two big calls in the game: missed Costa’s stamp on Skrtel and then was too lenient on Lucas when he was on a yellow)

Up Next: Rubin Kazan v Liverpool / Chelsea v Dymano Kiev.

Jurgen Klopp era begins with a striking crisis

There may be a new manager, but it is the same old story on Merseyside.

Jurgen Klopp has registered three draws in his first three games. Over those 270 minutes, Klopp’s men have managed just two goals and conceded as many.

Finding the net has been a constant thorn in Liverpool’s side since the departure of talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona a year ago. When the Uruguayan was tormenting defences in his final season as a red, Liverpool scored 101 league goals with Suarez either scoring or assisting 52 of those.

Last season Liverpool could only manage to replicate Suarez’ individual contribution: 52 goals over 38 games. Over 44 games in 2015, Liverpool have only twice scored more than two in a game. Only West Bromwich Albion and Watford have a worst record (8) since the return of the new season and Klopp’s Liverpool have so far been no different.

A plague on the goalscorers

Would Brendan Rodgers still at Liverpool if Daniel Sturridge had played a majority of last season? The Englishman has a spectacular record for the Merseysiders, 38 goals in 58 league appearances, but has too often been injured. In fact of the seasons since his striking mate trotted off to Barcelona, Sturridge has missed 32 of the 48 league games.

Rodgers felt his absence keenly last year as Suarez’ replacement Mario Balotelli struggled to four goals for the season and midfielder Steven Gerrard ended as the club’s topscorer on nine.

Sturridge has played and scored in each of the two matches in which Liverpool have managed to find the net more than twice. Most recently he got a brace against Aston Villa at the end of September.

And as Klopp attempts to stamp his mark on Liverpool, he too is desperately searching for a forward to bring goals to a confidence stricken side without potency or steel.

Of Sturridge he said: “I know about his history with injuries of course but I have no experience with these things with him especially.

“That’s another thing I have to learn but for sure if he is back, he has to train, and if he can train then he can play – before this we don’t have to talk about this.”

On top of that, new golden-boy Danny Ings will miss the remainder of the season while Christian Benteke, who has struck 15 times in 20 league appearances, will sit out his sixth game of the season.

What to do?

Despite having two world class strikers on their roaster with proven track records, Liverpool have and will continue to struggle for goals.

Klopp needs to somehow solve this problem. Divock Origi is simply nowhere near becoming a reliable goalscorer. He looks raw and his finishing is wayward. He cannot lead the line the way Klopp’s 4-3-2-1 system demands a striker must.

Origi aside and Liverpool have run out of strikers. As blasphemous as it may sound, perhaps Liverpool should forget about Sturridge? Yes he is incredible, yes he is a goalscorer, but what is all that worth if he can only manage ten games a season?

Benteke should be the answer, but he too is sidelined. But his record at Aston Villa suggests he is a reliable option. He did miss over six months to a ruptured achilles’ tendon, but that was his only sustained absence in three years at Villa.

And Klopp doesn’t seem too concerned about his injury either, but he will miss tonight’s game with Bournemouth and is now a doubt for Saturday’s clash with Chelsea.

It’s all a familiar story for Liverpool fans, except this time if Benteke can get himself fit, then Liverpool have a great replacement for Sturridge. The Belgian proved his quality with a superb header against Southampton.

Until then though, where are the goals going to come from? Philippe Coutinho’s form has considerably dropped off and without the versatile winger Raheem Sterling, Klopp must now persist with the frustrating Origi.

Origi will certainly benefit from the game time, but it is unlikely Liverpool will benefit with him on the pitch. Unlike Sturridge’s issues, Klopp will hope Benteke’s return to the treatment will be brief.

Because it seems as though Liverpool fans will only get an inkling of what Klopp is capable of when he has a decent fit striker to play with.

Tottenham 0 Liverpool 0: Klopp era starts with a draw

Jurgen Klopp’s English debut ended with a point as his Liverpool drew nil all with Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane.

It wasn’t the full throttle madness that Liverpool fans were dreaming of and Gerard Houllier remains the only Liverpool manager to win his first game.

Liverpool have now not manged more than one goal on their travels in 12 games and those woes continued today with just three shots on target, while Spurs go to eight games unbeaten.

Harry Kane had the best of Tottenham’s chances with two fiercely struck shots, but the game ended goalless with neither side able to force a winner.

As the teamsheets came out, Daniel Sturridge was the noticeable absentee with Divock Origi spearheading the Liverpool attack.

News arrived that the Englishman was nursing a minor knee injury, but Origi started well as his header rebounded back off the post from an early corner.

Clinton N’Jie, who came on in the 10th minute after Nacer Chadli picked up a injury, had Spurs’ first chance as he prompted Simon Mignolet into a flying save in the 28th minute.

Kane was then one-on-one with the Liverpool goalkeeper, but again the Belgian was big enough to stop the shot, before Mamadou Sakho threw his body in front of Dele Alli’s follow-up.

The second half lacked the first 45’s urgency and for most of the game the home fans witnessed a pedestrian affair.

Martin Skrtel was doing an excellent job with keeping the PFA Young Player of the Year quiet, but Kane should have snatched an 83rd minute winner when with just Mignolet to beat, he again hit too close to the stopper with the whole goal to aim at.

Emre Can was inches away from grabbing all three points in the final minute, but his low effort skipped by the post.

Tottenham XI: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dembele, Alli, Lamela (Townsend 87 mins), Eriksen, Chadli (N’Jie 11 mins), Kane.

Subs: Vorm, N’Jie, Trippier, Townsend, Wimmer, Winks, Davies.

Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Lucas, Milner, Coutinho (Ibe 87 mins), Lallana (Allen 81 mins), Origi.

Subs: Toure, Allen, Ibe, Bogdan, Randall, Sinclair, Teixeira.

Referee: Craig Pawson

Man of the match: Emre Can, embodied the Klopp effect. Fast direct and pressing.

Moment of the match: Mignolet’s point blank save from Kane in the first half, followed up by Sakho’s clearance off the line.

Straight to the Klopp: Liverpool welcome a true performer

Forget Arsene Wenger, move over Jose Mourinho and keep it to yourself Louis Van Gaal. If Jurgen Klopp turns up at Anfield, the Premier League will have a new entertainer.

It seems as though it is just a matter of time before Klopp arrives at Liverpool. The German is the stuff of legends in Germany and spent seven years at FC Mainz 05 and then at Borussia Dortmund creating miracles.

But the coach has much more to his personality then just a keen football intelligence, Klopp is also an extremely interesting man to study. Here are a few things that has made Klopp adored across the Bundesliga and beyond and what he might bring to England.

His many forms of banter

Klopp has never been a shy character and is practically a one man meme machine. The sheer amount of material he has provided for the internet is in itself a full-time job.

Such as:

Or perhaps you’d prefer:

Or maybe some playful slapping:

What else do you need to know:

Crazy celebrations

Klopp has had one or two things to celebrate in his time as a coach, including a few German league titles and a handful of cups too.

He also led Mainz into the first division for the first time ever and is the type of manager who treats derbies as war zones. His passion is famous and he often expresses himself in brazen physical declarations of joy.

Relax it’s just his best celebrations:

Press parties

If anyone else couldn’t care less about Van Gaal’s army or Mourinho’s conspiracy theories please raise your hand now.

Klopp has a different approach to meeting the media, mainly he uses them to practice his stand-up.

Here he is having some fun with the English media:

Back home in Germany, he is easily distracted:

In this interview he had decided to bring along his tall bubbly buddy with him:

But he is not afraid to call it as he sees it. Here he is after Dortmund lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final:

Liverpool fans understandably cannot wait to welcome Klopp to Merseyside. Indeed all football supporters should be delighted to see the arrival of man who lives, breathes, eats and dances football.

No nonsense and all banter. A paradox that is sure to bring success to Liverpool.

Jamie Carragher: Blame rests with FSG

Jamie Carragher has slammed FSG’s tenure as owners and has accused them of turning Liverpool into Tottenham Hostpurs.

FSG finally brought the axe down on Brendan Rodgers last night as the Northern Irishman was finally relived of his duties.

There’s now a scramble to find the next Liverpool manager as reports revealed that FSG’s sudden decision was influenced by the worry that Chelsea might be sniffing around Jurgen Klopp.

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FSG Owners: Tom Werner and John W Henry

Former Liverpool defender Carragher reacted to the news with this glaring assessment.

“The owners have made a lot of decisions that haven’t worked.

“They’ve now gone for a transfer committee, and that’s not working. They kept Brendan Rodgers on in the summer, and that was obviously a mistake.

“At this moment, the owners’ track record for making decisions for Liverpool Football Club over the last two or three years has not been good enough.”

A Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005, Carargher goes on to add that FSG are currently ‘miles-off’ from being successful.

A final insult that will resonate with most Liverpool fans is the comparison to the much-dismissed Tottenham.

“Liverpool are becoming Tottenham. They think they are a big club but the real big clubs aren’t to worried about who they are buying or what they do.

“At the moment Liverpool are a club who think they are a big club, but they are not.”

Today in his Mail coloum, Carragher weighed in on who should take the reins and he had only one suggestion: Klopp.

Klopp: two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund
Klopp: two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund

Following on from former Liverpool legends such as Didier Hamman and Jan Molby, Carragher can’t see a better replacement out there.

“Klopp wants to show the world he can replicate the success he had at Borussia Dortmund, where he took on and beat Bayern Munich domestically and the likes of Real Madrid in Europe.

“Liverpool aren’t a giant at the moment but they have the aspiration to get back there. Klopp has the energy and desire to take on that challenge.”