Match Preview GW 9
After an eternity, we are back into league action. And man oh man, what a tasty fixture to come back to. United Liverpool at Old Trafford brings back a lot of emotions for supporters. Fear, anxiety, bliss, and even wonder. Some of my favorite memories supporting this club have risen from the Northwestern power fixture. Does it get any bigger than this? I think not.
Klopp’s men travel the short trip East as hands down favorites for the first time in ages. This is the best opportunity we’ve had to come away with all three points, and we need to for more reasons than bragging rights. Last year the tides in the title race turned when we failed to take maximum points against a side who was forced to use all three subs in the first 45 mins. It is also important to keep this win train rolling, the boost from taking maximum points at Old Trafford, can easily carry us in this difficult run of games coming up. If we can maintain a large gap at the end of the calendar year, it’s our title to lose.
The trouble is, games are more than just bookmaker odds. Games are played on the pitch, influenced by the hype, and brought to life by the supporters. Despite United’s poor start to the campaign, this fixture has the ability to bring the best out of players and the worst for those not up to the pressure cooker. For years we’ve wanted to be the party poopers, because we’ve had nothing else to play for, and for Untied tomorrow it will be no different. We must come into this game and treat it as any other. We must know that Untied is very capable of giving us a real game, and manage it as if it were a game at Burnley, or Southampton.
Word on the Street
Across the Fence
The Goalie Dilemma
I know I spoke about this last blog, but it’s actually happening this weekend. What a fantastic head ache to have if you’re the gaffer this weekend. With Alisson back to full fitness and chomping at the bit to restart his season, Klopp has a big decision to make. Adrian has been absolutely phenomenal for a second choice keeper and he’ll also be wanting to face United tomorrow. He has more than earned the spot too. He’s kept us perfect, he’s won a Super Cup penalty shoot-out, and he’s been an absolute rock between the sticks. The fans thoughts of him when he came on after less than 30 mins in week one, are surely improved tenfold. No one in the red half of Merseyside can deny they have been surprised by the new man, and he deserves all the credits he’s given.
The hard truth of the matter is he was merely a place holder for the injured number one. Since Alisson lost his spot from injury and not poor play, I feel that he should come straight back in the side. Injured goalies are a curse for managers. Unlike out field players, you can’t give them 20 mins here and there until they’re fully fit. You can definitely sub them in, but losing a substitute for the keeper position is something you only want to do for an injury. I’m glad I’m not Klopp, but he’ll be helped by knowing that regardless of his decision, the man in the net will be more than capable of getting the win.
Calm the Nerves
I highly recommend watching the match tomorrow with a pint and a friend or 50. On an occasion such as this, in a game where we could keep 8 points from our nearest pursuer, and tie the consecutive win record, you need to relax as much as possible. Positive vibes during the game and positive vibes after. I’ve been to the bar when Liverpool have lost, but I’ve never left there as upset as I am when we lose and I’m alone at home. It’s possible we don’t come away with all three points, it’s possible that we don’t come away with any. In fact, out of all the big rivalry games in the world’s game, Liverpool have the lowest win percentage away than any other team. As an example, Barcelona have almost twice better odds to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu than Liverpool do at Old Trafford.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Liverpool have the best odds to win away than they have in the last decade. Enough of that though, you can spit out stats until you’re blue in the face (and who would want to be blue) but they don’t affect the game. 90 mins on the big green rectangle is the deciding factor to outcomes. That being said, there’s nothing you can do, especially if you’re watching from the States, so might as well grab a friend and a beer and enjoy it. These are the best days of our lives, drink it in, figuratively and literally.
Concur and Conquer
The Extension of a Lifetime
Joel Matip has just put pen to paper and extended his contract to 2024. After a phenomenal start to the season and finish to last year, Klopp has shown his faith in the center back.
The new contract will expire when Joel is 33 years old, which means he will be a Red for the rest of his effective career. Supporters are thrilled, taking to social media to express their love for the big Cameroonian. The rise of Matip is an incredibly inspirational one, and his extension will likely resonate throughout the football world. Arriving from a free transfer from Schalke in 2016, he has put his stamp on the second choice center back position. The man put his nose down and worked his butt off.
Klopp has mentioned how he believes obtaining Matip should go down as one of the club’s best pieces of business. The gaffer demanded activating his year extension clause on the current contract in order to chase off other suitors and give the club time to write up a contract fitting of the man’s work. The extension says more than just how well Matip has committed himself to the club, it shows anyone interested in moving that this club values hard work regardless of the Inquisition price. The massive 75 mil Liverpool paid for his partner Virgil in 2018 has earned the Dutchman a 2025 contract, paired next to the free Matip is so Liverpool. Work hard and get rewarded is the message sent to all those paying attention.
In the lull of the international break, Pep Lijnders described Liverpool’s Brazilian defensive midfielder as a lighthouse. I couldn’t agree more with the analogy, as Fabinho is clearly one of the first names on the team sheet each week. The man has a propensity to see dangers emerging before the attackers themselves know what their plan is. With Henderson constantly being exposed for his defensive positioning in that role, and Milner aging, his emergence has been a welcome one. His forward vision on the ball and his positioning off it, respectively sets up attacks as well as destroys them. He has a knack for the perfect tackle from a less than advantageous angle. Even making it seem like he prefers to come from a blindsided position to make the tackles, which could ultimately be why it’s so effective.
For Virgil and Matip, seeing the #3 in front of them must give them a huge confidence boost. As soon as Liverpool lose possession Fabinho springs into the press to win it back. More times than not, he successfully wins the ball back for the squad, but he’s still effective even when unsuccessful. He forces the counter into a channel, which makes defending it easier for the center backs. He quite literally cuts the field in half for the attacking team, bar a audacious cross field pass, the hit a cul-de-sac that is the Liverpool back line. He is the lock down door in every spy movie ever made, the attack must hurry their advance to squeeze into the slightest of gaps. I could go on for days about the Brazilian but I will end it by saying that I believe he is the key to everything positive about possession transitions with Liverpool and would slot into any team in the world and make it a bit better.
What do you think? Let me know. Have your say below.