Last season’s Champions League finalists Liverpool are coming off from a frustrating night in Europe’s elite competition.
The Reds looked stuck in the second gear against a motivated Napoli side at San Paolo stadium on Wednesday night and flew back home with their heads down. The Serie A hotshots grabbed a late 1-0 win thanks to Lorenzo Inzigne’s goal which put the Italians top of Group C.
The hosts were in the driving seat for the majority of the match and had the better chances throughout with goalscorer Insigne, Jose Callejon, Fabian Ruiz and Arkadiusz Milik all getting the better out of Liverpool lines.
Substitute Dries Mertens added pressure when his strike rattled the crossbar before Lorenzo Insigne scored a 90th minute winner to give Liverpool a night of firsts in the Champions League.
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The Napoli defeat ended up being Liverpool’s first-ever Champions League group stage loss under Jurgen Klopp, whereas it was also a game during which Liverpool failed to register a single shot on target for the first time since February 2006.
Liverpool looked as if they were playing for a point and their lackluster performance revealed struggles in both midfield and attacking department. An early Naby Keita injury made things ever so more difficult for Liverpool who lost the substance in the centre of the park, whereas upfront it all came down to Mohamed Salah continuing his dry spell.
Should Klopp Rest Salah vs City?
The Egyptian King was once again below-par for Liverpool. The Reds’ entire front line of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio mane – who scored a combined 91 goals last season – was unusually flat.
It might be argued that Klopp’s cutting blade has lost its edge due to the fact rivals know what to expect but predictability should not stand as an issue for a highly versatile and fluid Liverpool side. Liverpool’s best opportunity came through Salah – when his effort went wide – and the Egyptian is doing his best to end the poor patch.
Whoscored stats tell us that Salah is averaging 0.9 tackles per Premier League game for Liverpool this season, which is three times the last season’s numbers. He remains a power force in Klopp’s pressing game and a vital cog in the machine that might just require a bit oiling.
What worries most about Mohamed Salah is a dejected figure he is cutting after each match – such as a frustrated man we saw him become both against Chelsea and in Naples. Klopp admitted the Egyptian was frustrated at his own performance last weekend and Salah would not have felt differently on Wednesday night.
Shaqiri and Sturridge Knocking on the Door
Salah is lacking productivity this season. Two of his three goals this season came from within the six-yard box. If we exclude the tap-in goals the Egyptian’s struggles upfront tend to be more pronounced.
Jurgen Klopp’s faith in the Egyptian is commendable and it is indeed too early in the season to throw sticks and stones towards Salah, who can’t be expected to score in every match. But Jurgen Klopp should, however, consider giving his player a rest – time to reflect, recharge his batteries and come back as strong as he was last season.
Growing calls have emerged for Jurgen Klopp to offer chances to Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri and the German should give them a serious consideration.
The pair have impressed in the new season, in the rare opportunities afforded to them. Daniel Sturridge emerged a Liverpool hero after scoring a late equalizer against Chelsea and bagging three in three games ahead of the Napoli clash.
Shaqiri has also been a positive ray of light for Liverpool this season as he went on to settle straight away and fit in a role Jurgen Klopp assigned him to perform.
Sturridge and Shaqiri would provide Liverpool with an alternative edge and a formation restructure that would, at the same time, be an element of surprise for Manchester City and bring in a formation change Reds could benefit from immensely.
With Sturridge surrounded by Mane and Firmino on either side on the wings and Shaqiri supporting him from behind in a central advancing role, Liverpool could get an alternately shaped spearhead to throw City’s way.
Liverpool are found at 13/8 betting odds to get back to winning ways against Manchester City.
Could they do it – with or without Mo Salah?
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