The house behind Alexander-Arnold
It has turn into a type of saws wheeled out on social media each time Liverpool concede a aim, or each time they arrive beneath stress: Trent Alexander-Arnold can’t defend; he can be bought at. And, worryingly for Liverpool earlier than Saturday, Exhibit A within the case towards him is the away leg of final season’s quarter-final towards Real Madrid when Vinícius Júnior repeatedly bought in behind him, resulting in the opening two objectives.
Vinícius, as he confirmed towards Chelsea, is nice at exploiting that house excessive up on the flank however, whereas acknowledging Alexander-Arnold just isn’t essentially the most adept in one-on-one battles (there was one other second, early in that quarter-final, when Ferland Mendy wobbled previous him with disconcerting ease), the broader situation just isn’t actually Alexander-Arnold.
His position is to push ahead. He is a supremely gifted crosser, registering 12 league assists this season, and linking up beautifully with Mohamed Salah. To try this, he has to play excessive. That danger is mitigated not by him operating again extra or dropping deeper however by Liverpool’s press, which ought to stop opponents measuring passes into that house behind the defence – which is all the time the vulnerability for groups who function with a excessive line.
Both objectives final season got here from passes launched by Toni Kroos, who on every event had time to calibrate. That is what Liverpool have to stop. Perhaps Kroos or Luka Modric can pop a 50-yard cross completely into Vinícius’s path beneath stress, however that’s basically unavoidable; the purpose is to make it as exhausting as doable. Last season Liverpool’s press was far much less environment friendly than it’s now. Although the midfield three in that recreation in Madrid seems to be comparatively sturdy – Fabinho flanked by Naby Keïta and Gini Wijnaldum – their beginning positions had been affected by a insecurity within the central defensive pairing of Nat Phillips and Ozan Kabak, which in flip in all probability had an impression on Alexander-Arnold.
The significance of Van Dijk
It was hanging final Sunday how usually Wolves bought in behind the Liverpool defensive position, significantly within the first half. To an extent that’s an inherent danger in how Liverpool play, however this was excessive. Ibrahima Konaté, maybe, was rattled after his early error, however the larger situation is Van Dijk, who’s so good at judging simply how excessive the road ought to be and when it ought to push up. He was an unused substitute within the final two league video games after being pressured off after 90 minutes of the FA Cup closing with a hamstring twinge and the belief is that he’ll be match sufficient to start out. Liverpool want him.
Can Madrid take care of Liverpool’s physicality?
It’s all the time one thing of shock when a cliche of English footballing self-aggrandisement seems to be true. Two seasons in the past, when Manchester City beat Madrid within the final 16 of the Champions League, it was startling simply how rattled Madrid had been by the City press. These foreigners actually didn’t prefer it up ’em. Madrid have developed since then and received’t be caught unawares once more however, nonetheless, that midfield of Modric, Kroos and Casemiro – mixed age 98 – might be bodily overwhelmed.
The 4-0 house defeat by Barcelona and the primary hour of the sport on the Etihad this season present how inclined Madrid can be to the press. There is then, maybe, an argument for Carlo Ancelotti to start out Eduardo Camavinga, in all probability rather than Kroos, given what he would add when it comes to power. But Kroos was instrumental in Madrid’s victory over Liverpool final season, and Camavinga has been extraordinarily efficient coming off the bench within the knockout section. It may be that, as at Chelsea, Federico Valverde is utilized in a extra withdrawn position on the suitable.
The chances are there’ll be a interval of the sport through which Liverpool’s higher physicality will give them an edge. Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and City all had these spells. What is important is that they benefit from it.
Memories of final season will make Liverpool cautious of the specter of Mendy getting ahead on the left, however he has solely three aim involvements within the league this season and will in all probability be engaged largely in stopping Salah, though he might be uncovered if Vinícius stays excessive in a recreation of hen with Alexander-Arnold.
On the opposite aspect, although, Dani Carvajal might signify an actual alternative for Liverpool. He seems to be an previous 30, sluggish on the flip, and whereas there isn’t a nice disgrace in being uncovered by Kylian Mbappé, he has additionally struggled towards Riyad Mahrez and Chelsea’s Timo Werner/Marcos Alonso axis. The chances are it’s going to be Luis Díaz who begins on the Liverpool left, however there should be a temptation for Jürgen Klopp to get Sadio Mané operating at Carvajal.
The chaos protocol
Madrid’s progress by means of the knockout rounds has to a big extent defied logic. They have been outplayed for lengthy phases, however have then, due to the brilliance of Karim Benzema, Thibaut Courtois and Modric, been ruthless once they have been in a position to break the sport from the management of the opposition. They have received their previous 5 Champions League video games by an combination of 14-10. They have thrived on dysfunction. Liverpool may have been shifting away from the heavy-metal soccer that used to characterise Klopp sides however nonetheless, they’re higher geared up to control chaos than the overwhelming majority of superclubs.
Physicality, chaos and Carvajal: where Liverpool v Madrid may be decided & More Latest News Update
Physicality, chaos and Carvajal: where Liverpool v Madrid may be decided & More Live News
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