Can Liverpool Bounce Back And Win The Top Four?

The beginning of 2021 is a tough period for Liverpool. The Reds’ performance dropped dramatically, as a result, those who were competing for the title, fell outside the top four. They will have to wait until their fourth match to claim their first Premier League win in 2021. What’s worse is, Juergen Klopp’s men are setting an unwanted record: losing six in a row at Anfield, the first time in the club’s history.

Liverpool looked exhausted throughout this period. It could be said that the squad known as Klopp’s “mentality monster” was physically and mentally exhausted. Even though they still appeared dominant, recording control of up to 60-70%, Liverpool lost to teams such as Burnley, Brighton, to Fulham. Now, Liverpool are getting a long break that should eliminate competition fatigue. Having been eliminated in the FA Cup, the Reds have a gap of 19 days from their last match (vs Wolverhampton) with the first game after the international break (vs Arsenal).

Can Liverpool get up and grab a place in the top four? They are five points adrift of Chelsea at the end of the Champions League zone. The Premier League has nine games left. For the Reds, there are no words to immediately create positive momentum. On the return of the players from the international break, Klopp admitted that he did not set a specific target. The former Borussia Dortmund coach emphasized that Liverpool’s ambition is to reach the remaining points and see how far they can crawl in the table.

“All I can say is, let’s move with everything we’ve got and see where we can go. We don’t have many points to waste. We will not hesitate. We will move for [the points], “Klopp said in his pre-match press conference.

Liverpool itself still has to face tough opponents for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. Real Madrid, Leeds United and Manchester United are waiting at their respective homes. The Reds also host Aston Villa and Southampton at Anfield. Teams that are in danger of relegation – therefore must be aware of – namely Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and Burnley were also in the way.

The recipe for beating Liverpool is to play with low blocks. The result of the match at the Emirates will be crucial for Liverpool’s revival mission for the remainder of the season. Apart from not being able to lose points, Mohamed Salah and his friends certainly didn’t want the momentum of the victory over RB Leipzig and Wolverhampton to end.

Klopp’s side are showing signs of resurgence just before the international break. They won the second leg of the Champions League Last 16 against Leipzig and made them qualify for the quarter-finals 4-0 on aggregate. The Reds appeared efficient in this match. Despite only recording 40% possession of the ball, Liverpool created opportunities with a total xG value of 2.3 and scored two goals.

The match was in stark contrast to the results of Liverpool’s attacks throughout early 2021. At the start of the year, Mohamed Salah and company made chances worth 2.3 and 1.7 xG against Burnley and Everton, but failed to score. Against Brighton and Chelsea, the Reds failed to even shoot from a dangerous angle; only recorded 0.7 and 0.3 xG with zero goals. The match against Leipzig shows Liverpool’s attacking power which has not been seen for a long time.

Positive signs were also seen when Liverpool faced Wolverhampton, 15 March. Andrew Robertson and his friends did not show their best performance, but were able to win 1-0. The Reds did not dominate the match and their odds were not too good, at 1.1 XG. However, Wolves who had a little more possession of the ball and shot more shots ended up losing.

“I heard Robbo [Robertson] call these three bad points. I named it the three gross points. “I’m very happy with these three points [against Wolverhampton],” Klopp said after the match. Being able to win the “three gross points” was an essential element of their success in winning the Premier League title last season. In 2019/20, Liverpool may appear nothing special – failing to display aggressive football synonymous with Juergen Klopp – but still be able to bring home three points. Quality like this is what Klopp hopes to show his team again.

To face the rest of the season, Liverpool should be optimistic about the squad they have. They will still be without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Jordan Henderson who are still injured, but coatings like Nathaniel Phillips and new players like Ozan Kabak and Diogo Jota are doing well.

After the initial difficulties, Kabak began to tune into the Liverpool system. The defender from Turkey is working closely with Phillips at the back. Phillips, who tends to be more aggressive, duel quickly to stop the attack. While Kabak is calm observing movements and providing protection (cover). The two of them complement each other.

The solid combination of the two defenders also gave Liverpool another blessing. Thanks to them, Fabinho can be returned to the defensive midfielder position. The Brazilian midfielder has more influence on the game if he is installed as no. 6. Last season, Fabinho was a vital figure for Liverpool’s stability. As a defensive midfielder, he has recorded 77 tackles (the most in the Reds squad), 37 of them in midfield and 27 in the defensive third. Fabinho’s presence provides a safety net that supports attack-line operations.

On the other hand, the return of Diogo Jota after a long injury is also a breath of fresh air for Klopp. This season, the Reds have had problems scoring goals if Salah, Mane and Firmino were blunt in front of goal. The central midfielders are not as prolific as last season. Nat Phillips and Kabak did not present a threat from dead ball situations as well as Van Dijk and Joel Matip.

Jota, after being sidelined for more than two months, scored again in his third match after recovering. The Portugal international attacker was very effective at converting chances. He has scored six goals from 3.0 xG odds in the Premier League. During the international break, Jota also performed impressively with Portugal. He scored three goals in two matches against Serbia and Luxembourg.

Ahead of facing Real Madrid, the former Wolverhampton striker can provide other options and freshness in attack. Liverpool did show signs of improvement, also had a long break before returning to action. But can the Reds save the season and grab a Champions League ticket? For that, Liverpool must first beat Real Madrid.

ASL

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