Liverpool missed a lesson in December that may have seen them through in the Champions League. They suffered defeat in midweek to Atletico Madrid.
The Reds struggled quite badly to break Atletico down. Despite dominating the ball over the two legs, Liverpool managed just one goal in normal time. They grabbed a second in extra-time, of course, but would concede three before the final whistle blew.
The statistics show how difficult it was. Liverpool had eight shots in Madrid from over 70% possession but didn’t score. They then managed a remarkable 34 shots in the home leg but only scored two – again with over 70% possession.
And with no great goalscoring option from the bench, something else needed to happen to shake things up. Because as it happened, Atletico were able to control Liverpool to a degree – particularly at home.
So it’s worth casting our minds back to early December where Liverpool shook things up in a game against Everton.
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Liverpool threw in a few squad players to their starting lineup. Both Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri started, for instance, as the Reds went 4-2-3-1. It’s the only time Jurgen Klopp decided to try something other than 4-3-3 and it paid dividends.
Liverpool caught their local rivals completely off guard, scoring four in the opening half. The ease in which they cut Everton open was outstanding – even without their best players.
Should Klopp have considered the formation again to tackle Atletico? One problem Liverpool faced was their own predictability, as nothing they did surprised them. The Spaniards were a side looking to stop Liverpool and that would have been a lot tougher if they didn’t know what to prepare for.
It’s easy to say this with hindsight, of course, and it’s certainly too late to change things. But this December lesson is worth learning for future Champions League campaigns. The unexpected can be another weapon in Liverpool’s arsenal.