MATCH CENTRE

Preview: Liverpool vs PSG

Having successfully defeated Tottenham at Wembley, Liverpool will be looking to fry bigger fish outside the domestic league.

The Reds will kick off their maiden European game of the season by hosting French giants Paris Saint-Germain. Being in a group that also contains the likes of Napoli and Red Star Belgrade, Liverpool will be hoping to set the pace by getting a result against the French.

Ahead of the mouthwatering clash between the two heavyweights, let us examine the important bits that could shape the match.

Firmino Unavailable?

In the lead up to Tuesday night’s big game, Firmino’s availability was the biggest talking point. That was due to the seemingly nasty eye injury that he received after being gouged by Jan Vertonghen. Fans hoping for Klopp to give the Brazilian the all clear were left disappointed, with the German refusing to give a definitive answer.

On being asked if Firmino was able to play against PSG, Klopp responded by saying he doesn’t “know in the moment”. Adding on, he said: “We are obviously in close contact with him and it improved already – but in this moment I can’t say if he will be available for tomorrow.”

If Firmino does miss the match, it’ll come as a big blow for Liverpool. With 10 goals and 8 assists in Europe last season, Firmino is a hugely important player. His pressing and intelligence in working the channels is what makes Liverpool tick, and replacing him will be tough task.

Though I’ve recently written a piece on how Liverpool can cope without our No. 9, losing Firmino will undoubtedly put us at a disadvantage. With Solanke also ruled out with a knock, we can only hope that either Sturridge or Shaqiri can perform when called upon.

Time To Gear Up

Victory against Wembley made it 5 wins out of 5, with the Reds sitting pretty at the top alongside joint leaders Chelsea. One would have to go back to 1990/91 – the year after their 18th and final league title – to see the Reds enjoy such a perfect start.

However, it’s the fact that the Reds have been operating mostly in second gear that has made this achievement all the more astounding. Instead of witnessing the usual blistering attack, fans have instead gotten used to the Reds winning ugly. Take the game against Leicester, where Liverpool were overrun in midfield by a certain James Maddison, yet somehow coming out as victors.

While there is nothing wrong with learning the art of winning ugly, such tactics are best suited against the lesser teams that look to park the bus. Against an expressive and expansive team, there will be much more quality chances against us. Simply grinding out results isn’t necessarily the most effective way to counter teams like PSG, and certainly won’t win over neutrals. Mourinho’s game plan against Sevilla at home last season is definitely an example that will resonate with many.

Liverpool were a scary prospect last season by simply gunning down opponents one by one. Versus a team like PSG, at home nonetheless, it’s time for Liverpool to discover that ruthless streak once more, and make a statement of their own.

The Art Of Defending

If you aren’t a Liverpool fan nor a PSG fan, this game will be enticing on so many levels. For one, it’s a Champions League clash – there aren’t many games that could be bigger than this. Running a close second will be the fact that it pits two of the best forward lines in Europe against each other. Liverpool will be well represented by Salah and Mane (maybe Firmino too), while PSG boast the likes of Neymar, Mbappe and Cavani.

But while much of the talk is focused on attack, it’s perhaps the defence that may end up being the story of the game. Attacking may be an important part of today’s game, but defending is equally as crucial. After all, the easiest way to gain a point is to simply shut out the opponents.

In terms of defence, Liverpool lead their opponents with 3 clean sheets and having conceded only 2 goals. Though PSG aren’t too shabby themselves, having conceded only 4 goals in 5 games, they face problems in defence. Both Buffon and Verratti are suspended, while fullbacks Alves and Kurzawa are out injured. With Thiago Silva the only experienced head in the Parisan’s back line, it represents an opportunity for Liverpool to take advantage of.

So while PSG hold the edge in terms of attack after resting Neymar and Mbappe missing the last game through suspension, getting through that Liverpool back line won’t be easy. A stingy Liverpool defence might just be tipping point in our favour.

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