Preview: PSG vs Liverpool
Chalking up his 300th league victory at the weekend, Klopp will be looking for another win in midweek. History favours the Reds, having beaten the Parisians in the Champions League group stage opener. Klopp’s opposite number Thomas Tuchel will be doing his utmost best to make sure that doesn’t happen, with his side looking to inflict defeat on the Merseysiders. With that, let’s take a look at the key pointers for the game in Paris.
A Disciplined Performance
Back in September when the two sides met, Klopp opted for a midfield trio of Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner. Though lacking creativity, the trio effectively stifled PSG’s front three, providing Liverpool the platform to do damage on their own. Together, they attempted 9 tackles, winning 8 of them. Such disciplined was their performance that they gave Neymar and Mbappe little room to maneuver, and left Cavani starved of service.
That discipline was no where to be seen at Vicarage Road, with Henderson particularly guilty. Tangling with Isaac Success shortly after his introduction, Liverpool’s captain was booked by referee Jon Moss. Subsequent encounters between the pair only serve to rile up the ex-Sunderland man, and that frustration boiled over when he shoved Abdoulaye Doucouré near the touchline. That left the referee with little option but to give Henderson his marching orders.
Speaking after the game, Klopp admitted that he planned to substitute Fabinho for Henderson. He knew, just like everyone did, that Henderson was close to the tipping point. However, that substitution came too late and Liverpool were forced to play the remaining 8 minutes with 10 men.
Now ruled out of the Merseyside derby, Henderson would surely start against PSG. This represents the chance for the skipper to redeem himself, having let the team and fans down at the weekend. With Wijnaldum and Milner also having a good chance of starting, the gaffer needs another disciplined performance to achieve any sort of result in Paris. Cool heads are needed in fixtures like this, and Henderson has to make sure that he doesn’t give in to his emotions again.
Getting Firmino Involved
Scoring Liverpool’s third at Vicarage Road, Roberto Firmino wheeled away in delight. He’d every reason to celebrate, as it was his first top-flight goal since Sept. 15. However prior to that goal, the Brazilian wasn’t having a particular great game, with his snapshot at Ben Forster’s goal the only notable involvement. Watford’s disciplined defence certainly make things hard for Firmino, but his latest struggles go way beyond that.
As you could see from his heatmap, Firmino spent most of the time in the middle third of the pitch. While it’s common for Firmino to drop deep, the last few matches has seen him retreat till a point where he’s not influential enough in the final third. In fact, he made just 1 key pass in the final third against Watford, and a mere 6 touches in the Hornet’s 18-yard box. One reason for why he’s been playing so deep could be due to Shaqiri’s involvement. With the Swiss playing, the Reds line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. That place Mohamed Salah at the fulcrum at the attack, and denying Firmino the opportunity to play in his favoured false 9 role. It was no coincidence that his goal came when Shaqiri was subbed off, which restored the No. 9 as Liverpool’s leading attacker.
Against PSG, Klopp might revert to his preferred 4-3-3 formation in order to field the likes of Wijnaldum, Henderson, and Milner in midfield. Doing so might bring the best out of Firmino, as he can return to being the key play-maker for Salah and Mane while drifting in behind defenders himself. Firmino was the game changer when PSG visited Anfield, hopefully he can again be that difference maker when the two sides meet on Wednesday.
It’s Anybody’s Game
Liverpool’s shock defeat to Red Star Belgrade in Matchday 5 threw Group C totally open, with all four teams still in contention for the top two spots. Currently, the Reds are on 6 points, which ties them with Napoli. PSG are on 5 points, while Red Star Belgrade prop up the bottom of the table with 4 points. This meant that Liverpool’s fate lies in their own hands, with progression into the knockout stages very much possible. Win at the Parc des Princes and the Reds will go through with a game to spare. Lose and they’ll have to beat Napoli at Anfield to stand a chance of progressing.
Naturally, this makes an already mouthwatering tie all the more important, with two top sides ready to go all out. For Klopp’s men, it represents the chance to wrap things up early. September’s win against their opponents is prove that it can be done, even if Neymar and Mbappe are fit and play alongside Cavani. However, they could do well to learn from their defeats away from home, where they were put the sword by spirited Napoli and Red Star Belgrade sides. Then, they were lethargic and sloppy, and were deserving losers in both games. Taking the game to their opponents would be Liverpool’s best chance at securing victory. Hopefully, the men in red come out roaring when they take to the pitch on Wednesday.