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75% of headers: Liverpool can breathe sigh of relief as duo return to best

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.

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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%.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

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.

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