The Liver Bird  

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Five Things We Learned: Man United 2 Liverpool 1

1) Liverpool have nothing to be embarrassed about

Yes we lost and yes it was pretty darn terrible but as far as I am concerned, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool have nothing to be embarrassed about. That match went perfectly with Mourinho's plan. A couple of long balls and some solid finishing thanks to errors in defence, once United were 2-0 up it was always going to be immensely difficult for the likes of Mane, Salah and Firmino to get through.

Image via Irish Independent
Mourinho plays a very negative game and it gets them results but if anybody tries to tell me United play better football than Liverpool, they can jog on. I would much rather watch the football we play with flair players leading the attack than turn up to watch a relatively bland United side slog out another last-minute win and have Fellaini as a key player. Mourinho is the first to complain when a side plays long ball against his team but when he does it? Genius. It drives me mad. Let them have their moment, I still think we'll finish above them in the table.

2) Lovren not a strong enough partner for VVD

Dejan has definitely improved of late but I'm not convinced he is the long-term partner for Virgil, nor am I convinced that it's Matip. On occasions against United, Lovren was caught completely off guard, VVD has added some command and stability to the defence but he can't ensure his teammates are always making the correct decision. Lovren's positioning at points was questionable, to say the least, and I just don't think it's a workable option for the Reds looking forward to next season.

3) Hendo brings more than we realise

The captain didn't even feature in this clash and I never thought I'd find myself sat there at half time asking for him to come on. I just feel like he would have brought some calmness to the side and would have provided more freedom to Can for example to power forward, both of them could then act as stronger links to the struggling forwards. 

Oxlade-Chamberlain had a pretty poor game and I honestly thought it would be Hendo replacing him.

4) Sadio Mane had an off day

I love Mane, he's on the back of my shirt this year, but bloody hell he had a bit of a mare on Saturday. Passing from the whole side, in general, was sloppy but Mane on several occasions lacked accuracy.

Decision-making while on the attack was also lacking, the link up between Sadio and Firmino/Salah usually comes naturally but it was a real struggle to make things work against United.

5) Klopp doesn't like to make early tactical changes

Point three above led me on to this one, I was trying to think back to big fixtures under Klopp and I'm not sure he's a fan of early tactical changes. Not many managers to be fair will watch a first half, note that there's a tactical issue and then be brave enough to make that change prior to 60 minutes but the Reds have had managers in the past that would stick their neck out and do so.

I felt on Saturday a change was needed relatively quickly, it didn't come until 62 minutes and even when it did it wasn't necessarily a tactical move to switch Oxlade with Lallana. The whole thing just got me thinking, Klopp is very much a subber of like-for-like players, partly because Klopp's tactics are simple in nature; press and attack. There are going to be times though where a clear tactical change is required to salvage something and I'm interested to focus more now on how the boss deals with these situations.

We've seen him chuck on attackers and pull off defenders but I'll be paying more attention I think to the more thoughtful subs in key upcoming fixtures.

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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Rafa Benitez: Away Days

Rafa Benitez brings his Newcastle side to Anfield on Saturday evening and instead of doing a standard, short match preview I thought I'd take this opportunity to look back at just a few of Rafa's memorable away days as Liverpool manager.

Here's hoping he doesn't get another iconic win this weekend though...


Image via Liverpool Echo
Barcelona - 21st February 2007
Result: 1-2 
Scorers: Bellamy and Riise


Image via The Redmen TV
It's February 2007, Liverpool are once again storming it in the Champions League under Rafael Benitez and the Reds have drawn Barcelona in the last 16. 

In the run-up to their visit to the Nou Camp Liverpool had seen a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby and lost at the hands of Newcastle. Tactical magician Benitez though wasn't going to let this poor form ruin his chances of being one of the very few managers to walk away victorious from Barcelona's precious ground. 

On the night, Barca actually took the lead thanks to a goal from Deco but Benitez's side remained focused and Craig Bellamy found the back of the net a couple of minutes before half time. Celebrating with his famous golf club celebration as a joke to the press who claimed he had fallen out with Riise, nobody could have predicted it would be the Norweigan who would find the winner.

Riise always had a cracking shot on him and he made sure he was on target for this memorable fixture, securing Liverpool a massive away win with just 15 minutes of the match left.

Some question how much a manager really has to do with results such as this but I am never in doubt when it comes to Benitez. He was monumental in these games.

Real Madrid - 25th February 2009
Result 0-1 
Scorer: Benayoun


Image via Liverpool Echo
Fast forward two years and Liverpool are at it in the Champions League again. Back in Benitez's native Spain, this time the Reds were at the Bernabeu. Throughout his Liverpool years, Benitez was often faced with an interesting selection of players to put it politely, some of these players may not have been the best but one thing you could guarantee is that Benitez would bring out their true quality.

Kuyt is one that always stands out to me, utterly transformed and completely relentless under Benitez, Kuyt would never ever give up and he was instrumental in a lot of Rafa's away wins. Another name on that list I would say to a lesser extent was Yossi Benayoun. No world beater, I'm sure he would admit himself, but Benitez knew how to field him and how to help him produce goals.

I still never thought I would see the day Yossi would score against Madrid though. 

On top of Benayoun finding the winner, Benitez must once again be praised on this away day for his solid defence. It was no coincidence the Reds kept a clean sheet.

Manchester United - 14th March 2009
Result 1-4 
Scorers: Torres, Gerrard (peno), Aurelio, Dossena


Image via Independent
Last, but most definitely not least, that infamous day at Old Trafford. On the 14th March 2009 having beaten Real Madrid at Anfield 4-0 just a few days prior, the Reds and Rafael Benitez went on an absolute rampage.

Since I was a little kid I've always built myself up for the United games, as a Liverpool supporter not hailing from the city it's usually the one that gears me up the most. Prior to kick off you could just sense that something was going to swing in Liverpool's favour, it's not often the Reds notch up a win at Old Trafford, let alone a battering and in part, the victory was down to that man Benitez again.

In the warm up the Reds had lost Xabi Alonso to a calf injury, some would argue no big deal but Xabi was a massive influence on the Liverpool side and added significant balance. Rafa remained calm and instructed his side perfectly against an extremely lacklustre United. 

Still to this day that is one of my favourite Liverpool matches.

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There were so many away games I could have discussed but I'd be hard-pressed to replace these as a top three. What was your favourite Benitez away day?

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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