Jurgen Klopp sprung a surprise with his midfield selection as Liverpool faced Real Madrid. It’s one that backfired spectacularly.
Few saw Naby Keita starting on Tuesday. Liverpool left Thiago on their bench against Real Madrid, going with a midfield of the Guinean, Fabinho and Gini Wijnaldum.
The plan was clear – high energy, direct running and athleticism against Real’s ageing midfielders. On paper, it was smart.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work at all. Liverpool looked lost, unable to spring counter-attacks and failing to cover their overlapping full-backs.
It was so bad, in fact, that Klopp subbed off Keita before half-time, bringing on Thiago. Though, in truth, he could have taken off any of the three, as he admitted after the game.
It was an all-round terrible midfield display. They failed to even press Real’s midfield properly, conceding two goals to Toni Kroos’s long-range passes.
Klopp clearly saw his mistake early with the substitution but should he have seen this coming?
History repeats itself
Liverpool have used that midfield twice before this season. Firstly, against Arsenal at Anfield.
The Reds won 3-1 in a decent display. But the second game was at Villa Park.
Liverpool lost that one 7-2, of course, with Keita leaving at half-time in an attempt to fix things. It was certainly too late.
This isn’t a midfield that offers consistency or reliability, then. It’s also one that when things don’t go well initially, players crumble.
There isn’t an obvious leader, after all – someone in the shape of Jordan Henderson or with Thiago’s control. No one took control of midfield, certainly, until the Spaniard arrived on the pitch.
We don’t expect to see this trio again, then. Klopp certainly suggested as much with his early substitution, not even waiting until half-time on this occasion.
Lesson learned, then? Liverpool need certain personalities in midfield to make things tick and they were sorely lacking in Madrid.