Dave Davis assesses the aftermath of the most recent Merseyside Derby and looks at the impact the fixture could have on Liverpool’s second leg quarterfinal tie against Manchester City on Tuesday.
It’s hard to remember a Merseyside Derby that felt so felt so unimportant and uneventful in recent times. A 0-0 draw seemed right for a game that Jurgen Klopp could have done without, all things considered.
After Alberto Moreno limped off in the warm-up, no further knocks seemed a blessing for an injury-ravaged squad and full focus turned towards Tuesday. There were still plenty of talking points from Goodison Park, though.
Little action was perfect for Liverpool
For a fixture that has produced more red cards than any other in the Premier League, this was largely a sedate affair. Wayne Rooney’s tackle in the first half on Milner was the exception as opposed to the rule.
This would have been exactly what Jurgen Klopp was looking for with Tuesday night looming and so many first teamers missing. Klopp called it the team’s ‘most mature performance of the season and with City contesting a high-octane Manchester Derby later in the day, it seemed far better preparation that the pending opposition.
Milner coming to the fore at the business end
He was outstanding last Wednesday in the first leg at Anfield and he was rightly named Man of the Match on Saturday. Milner’s importance to the side in recent weeks was underlined by the fact he was Liverpool’s first player rested after sixty-eight minutes.
At 32, Milner is Liverpool’s only Premier League winner in the current squad and every ounce of that experience will be needed on Tuesday. The former City man has an incredible seven assists in the Champions League to date. With Can and Henderson unavailable, it’ll be the protection he can provide the defence with that’s most crucial.
Karius continuing impressive turnaround
Perhaps the most crucial moment of Loris Karius’ Liverpool career will have been the conversation Simon Mingolet had with Klopp on the eve of the Burnley fixture. Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last twelve matches and the young German has more than played his part.
Bolasie’s curler looked headed for the far corner in the first half, before an outstanding fingertip save changed its trajectory. Making crucial saves that help the team pick up points is something that a top keeper does and it’s hard to fault Karius’ performance. You fancy a few more of those moments may well be needed come Tuesday.
Players rested a huge positive
The medical team have certainly got there work cut out at Melwood this week and if everything goes to plan, they’ll have certainly earned their money. When Alberto Moreno limped off in the warm-up, most Reds were panicking where the current injury crisis may end.
As much as it was good to see Ings, Solanke, Clyne and others get vital minutes, it was more pleasing to see who was rested. Fitness tests pending the likes of Salah, Firmino, Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold will start at The Etihad refreshed and ready. Hopefully, Dr Massey’s hands are on form this week.
Wijnaldum’s number six audition was promising
Henderson’s booking wasn’t seen as a disaster because Can looked set to be available. The German’s confirmed absence from the second leg means most reds are worried about what protection the defence would have against a City onslaught.
Wijnaldum played the number six role at Goodison and as auditions go it was pleasantly surprising. The Dutchman was always in the right place, often spun his opposite number and drove forward from a deeper than normal position.
Attacking probes won’t be on his docket come Tuesday, but more of the same will be needed. With no real alternatives on the bench, Wijnaldum has the chance to turn a disappointing season around.