After a week of international football, league action will be back in full swing.
On a 4 game winless streak prior to the break, the Reds will be seeking a winning return at the John Smith’s Stadium. Friendship will have to be put aside as Klopp and Wagner go head to head against each other. With both sides desperate for a win, here’s a rundown of the key pointers that may decide the game.
A Different Sort Of Test
Having drew with Chelsea and Manchester City recently, the Reds entered the break with their unbeaten record intact. While beating those 2 sides in the league would’ve been on every fans’ wish list, 2 points wasn’t the worst result either. And with their toughest stretch of games finally over, Kopites can finally breathe a littler easier.
That’s not saying that Klopp will be underestimating the lesser sides. After all, last season’s memories of his side being sent crashing down to earth by bottomed-place Swansea just a week after beating Manchester City would still be fresh on his mind. Off the back of a draw against City, Klopp will be determined to prevent history from repeating itself, especially against a side yet to taste victory in the league this season.
Besides being mentally ready for Huddersfield, Liverpool have to cope with a different type of play style. Instead of Sarriball or Pep’s expansive play style, the Reds have to deal with the aerial threat posed by the Terriers. No top-flight side have produced more successful crosses from open play than Huddersfield this season, and that’s likely to continue against the Merseysiders. With Laurent Depoitre or Stevie Mounie attacking anything that’s hurled into the box, not to mention Huddersfield’s ability to field the 1.98m Philip Billing, Liverpool’s defenders will have their hands full for the afternoon. Their job will only get considerably tougher if Klopp decides he doesn’t want to risk Virgil van Djik, who’s been playing through the pain barrier in recent weeks.
Second Guessing Wagner
This season has seen the Huddersfield boss experiment with a variety of formations. Whether it’s a back three, four, or five, Huddersfield have tried it all. That makes second guessing his friend much harder for Klopp.
That being said, there’s reason to believe that Wagner will stick to the 4-2-3-1 system that served him well against Burnley. That pre-international break game saw the Terriers record 68.3% possession and 19 shots, while also registering 28 crosses from open play. Besides, he did tried and failed with a back 3 against Liverpool last season. Pinned back by Liverpool’s forwards and fullbacks, the Terrier’s manager admitted his mistake by switching to a conventional 4 midway through the match. Which is perhaps why he’s likely to persist with the previous system instead of changing.
Even if Huddersfield change formations yet again, there’s reason to believe that Klopp will have a solution for it. Having tactically intelligent players definitely help, with the gaffer able to make on-field adjustments. Being one of the leagues most flexible sides, Liverpool should be confident of seeing off any surprises.
International breaks have never been kind to Liverpool, and the recent one wasn’t any different. Besides van Djik, Salah, Mane and Keita all got injured with their respective national teams. That’s on top of Milner’s injury that was sustained against Manchester City. Though all bar Keita should be fit in time for the Huddersfield clash, it doesn’t necessary mean they would be in the starting line-up. After all, Klopp isn’t known for taking risks, even if his friend expects these players to start.
Asked if it was a good time to play Liverpool because of their injury concerned, Huddersfield manager David Wagner replied:
“I know Jurgen long enough to know he loves to use some smoke screens. Don’t believe everything you read. I expect most of his players will be on the grass on Saturday.”
With Shaqiri and Sturridge in excellent form of late, Klopp could be forgiven for playing cautious and resting his African attackers. Lovren, Lallana and Fabinho are also options for Klopp should he decide against rushing van Djik and Milner back into the team.
A year ago, such an outbreak of injuries would’ve been devastating for Liverpool. And while it’s still not a pleasant situation to be in, the fact is that the Reds are better equipped this time round. Boasting much more competent reserves, Liverpool still stand a fair chance of winning even if the above 5 names don’t start against Huddersfield. Which is why fans should stay optimistic should Klopp elects for the safe route versus the Terriers.