Headers might not be a huge problem for Liverpool, after all. The Reds can breathe a sigh of relief after their display against FC Porto.
Liverpool went to Portugal needing a win. A draw wouldn’t have been the worst result in the world – Real Madrid earned that title – but the display against Brentford was worrying.
The Reds drew that game 3-3, of course, and all three of the hosts’ goals were sloppy. Liverpool should have dealt with them all but Brentford appeared to find a weakness.
As Jurgen Klopp pointed out after the game, Liverpool just couldn’t deal with Brentford’s long balls. They were happy to lump it up to Ivan Toney, who won 50% of his headers against Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk.
Matip actually won just 45% of his total aerial duels that day, with Van Dijk managed a marginally better 55%. That was certainly worrying coming into a massive Champions League game and then Manchester City at Anfield.
Fortunately, Liverpool can afford to breathe a sigh of relief.
Liverpool win their headers
Klopp went with the same centre-back pairing against Porto – something we didn’t think he’d do. He clearly wanted another look at Matip & Van Dijk as a duo.
And he got what he wanted. The two of them handled Porto very well in the air, with Van Dijk winning 75% of his headers and Matip jumping to 80%.
It’s not as though they had an easy day of it, either. They had to challenge four defensive headers each but coped very well. Enough so that long balls weren’t a way for Porto to get into the game.
That’s a relief. Liverpool won’t want to go into the City game with even a slight weakness showing – Pep Guardiola is the exact manager who will find a way to exploit it.
But assuming that Matip and Van Dijk will start again on Sunday, Klopp can play them with confidence. The duo – still working their way back from injury – showed a wonderful mentality and rebounded immediately.