Jurgen Klopp can afford to smile after Zinedine Zidane explained his worry for Real Madrid. It should play right into Liverpool’s hands ahead of their UEFA Champions League clash.
Liverpool had a plan in Madrid last week. They started with Naby Keita in midfield over Thiago – a big shout.
Keita, after all, is not as good as Thiago but he does some things better. Mainly, he’s more of an athlete than the Spaniard.
Thiago is technically magnificent but prefers to use his ability on the ball in the middle third. Keita, on the other hand, will press and run, looking to burst between lines and attack teams.
Keita’s energy, paired with Gini Wijnaldum’s, gave Liverpool a massively energetic midfield. That was in stark contrast to Real Madrid’s, who had Toni Kroos and Luka Modric either side of Casemiro.
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Kroos and Modric are elite players but the former is 31 and the latter 35. Liverpool, it seemed, thought they could out-run Real’s midfield.
As it turned out, Keita had an awful game and Klopp subbed him for Thiago before half time. He may have had the energy and athleticism but he lacked the mentality. At least, that’s how it came across.
But Klopp’s plan was still a good one. There were several times where Liverpool could and should have broken with pace on the counter – they just inexplicably didn’t.
One of the few times they did, in fact, saw Wijnaldum burst through some tackles ahead of Liverpool scoring their only goal.
While the team didn’t quite take advantage, Klopp clearly saw a weakness in how Zinedine Zidane lined up his team. Which is why the Frenchman’s words this week may bring about smiles in Liverpool.
“We have to rest after today,” Zidane said on Saturday, per Marca. “It’s been two gruelling games. Now we have to rest.
“I don’t know how we’re going to finish the season. Physically, we’re at our limit.”
Zidane sees this weakness, too, then. His team aren’t physically fit and have a number of injuries.
It very much sounds as though Klopp was onto something with his gameplan. We imagine a repeat on Wednesday, although with a different XI.
It’ll certainly take perfect execution to overcome a 3-1 defeat but if Liverpool know what to exploit, they’re on the right path. And it seems Klopp knows exactly what to do.