Red Star Belgrade vs Liverpool
Liverpool were forced to share the spoils with Arsenal at the weekend but will be determined not to let the same happen in the Champions League.
Liverpool take on Red Star Belgrade in Serbia for their 4th Champions League group game. The Reds beat their opponents 4-0 last month, so Klopp and his team will be looking for more of the same.
In the buildup to the game, let’s take a look at the key talking points.
Must Win Game
The Reds are sitting pretty at the top of their group heading into matchweek 4. However, just 2 points separate Liverpool and 3rd place PSG, which shows just how tight the group is. Any slip up would seriously harm Liverpool’s chances of progressing to the knockout stages.
Against a team that they’re expected to beat, Klopp and his men simply have to get all 3 points. With Napoli due a visit, and a trip to Paris still to come, this game will be the last “easy” one for the Merseysiders. That’s not to say Red Star will roll over and gift them the points. Liverpool will certainly have to earn the victory.
Clinching victory in Serbia would go a long way towards Liverpool’s hopes of progressing. Klopp knows that, and hopefully the team can get the job done.
Dubbed the Marakana by locals, the 53,000-capacity Rajko Mitic Stadium is where Liverpool and Red Star will do battle. Red Star’s home support is one of the most intense in Europe. The 70-second walk from the dressing room to the pitch via a shady tunnel daubed with Red Star graffiti just makes the atmosphere all the more intimidating. That venue was where Red Star earned their solitary point in this Champions League campaign, successfully holding Napoli to a draw.
Napoli were left frustrated back then, and Klopp has acknowledged that the rival support will be a key factor. Speaking to the media, Klopp said, “Atmosphere… we are from Liverpool so we know how big the influence can be. The only way I know to cool the atmosphere down is playing really good football. That’s what we have to try; to be ready for a fight and ready for a big game.”
“We will be ready, that’s the only thing I can make sure of. Then the boys have to do the job on the pitch, of course.
“We are not the most experienced team in the world in this part of the game but in the last three years we had two years with long, long journeys. We were twice in a final; that means we are really used to difficult atmospheres and difficult situations.
“That’s what we have to be again tomorrow and then let’s do what we are best in – playing football – and try to win the game.”
Andy Robertson also acknowledged the challenge that awaits the team, saying, “They’re a different beast when they’re at home”. But he too believes that Liverpool are well equipped to deal with it, so long as they “play at 100 per cent again”.
It’s good that the gaffer and his men are aware of the threat. Fans can be certain that complacency won’t threaten the final result.
Comeback For Keita?
Since getting injured while on international duty, the Guinean has not featured for the Reds and has missed the last 4 games. However, Keita was back in full training on Sunday and has travelled with the squad to Serbia. Klopp also confirmed in his press conference that Keita is in contention for the Red Star game.
Keita’s availability means that Klopp can afford to shuffle the deck, and with Fabinho struggling at the base of a midfield 3 on Saturday, Klopp could be tempted to drop him for Wijnaldum, opening the door for Keita’s return. Adding trust and dynamism, Liverpool’s No. 8 could be the key to unlocking a stubborn home defence.
With the traditionally busy holiday period looming, Keita’s return couldn’t have come at a better time, and Red Star Belgrade are the perfect opponents to ease the ex-Leipzig man back in.
A lot of focus will be on Napoli’s result tomorrow, but the most important thing is to secure the win in Serbia, and then worry about what’s happened in Naples.