By Padraig O’Callaghan – @AGameOfTwoHalfz
Liverpool welcome 20th-placed Fulham to Anfield as they try and return to winning ways after
dropping points in their last two games.
Liverpool head into this game on the back of a disappointing performance against Red Star Belgrade in a game where the Reds’ simply didn’t turn up, allowing the Serbians to punish and defeat us by two goals and deservedly so.
On a more positive note Liverpool are still one of three teams to remain unbeaten. Sitting joint
second in the league, two points behind first place, despite all the discontent about Tuesday night’s performance the team still remains in a strong position in both the League and in Europe.
Things at Craven Cottage are not positive however. Sitting at the foot of the table after 11 league
games with 29 conceded. The future of football at Fulham looked bright at the start of the summer. Winning promotion to the top division after five years out of it, spending over 100m on players like Seri and Schurrle. Whilst keeping key players Mitrovic, Cairney and Sessegnon.
Having won their opening seven games in all season, Liverpool have now only won three of their last nine. During those nine games, our defence conceded seven (having conceded four in the opening seven) so they have kept up their good start to the season. Our attack however has scored 12, two thirds of those came in matches against Red Star and Cardiff.
The lack of a midfielder to support the front three is quite alarming. In my opinion not bringing in a supportive midfielder is and has been a worse decision than not bringing in van Dijk.
Our Midfield looks lethargic and one dimensional, Roberto Firmino must come extremely deep to gain possession which makes defending against us easy. It’s no surprise that more than half of our goals in the last seven games have been scored when Xherdan Shaqiri has been on the pitch.
Fulham have lost their last their last five matches, including a humiliating loss against fellow relegation favourites Cardiff who put four past the London outfit. Their new signings haven’t adapted to the Premier League as of yet while star men Sessegnon and Cairney are playing like they are still in the Championship.
Serbian Striker Alexander Mitrovic is the only player from the Fulham squad who deserves any credit. Their defence is non-existent, there are periods during the game where their centre backs often find themselves on the flanks leaving large amounts of space at the back to capitalise upon.
Liverpool’s midfield where non-existent for the European match mid-week, Fabinho could return to the starting line-up, of the three midfielders who started at Red Star, Gini Wijnaldum would probably be the most likely to start against Fulham given his budding relationship on the pitch with Brazilian.
Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita both returned to training last week, so the duo should be available for selection.
Jurgen Klopp has went with his familiar 4-3-3 formation in the last two games, both games we struggled to control midfield, so he could well revert to a 4-2-3-1.
It’s a real debate as who is to start in the “10 role” Shaqiri has excelled there in recent weeks while many would like to see Keita be the man to link midfield to attack. Daniel Sturridge was poor and was guilty of missing chances he should have scored in Serbia meaning the Englishman should be replaced by Roberto Firmino who is also lacking confidence but would have scored the chances his fellow striker missed.
Dejan Lovren who was replaced by Joel Matip because of injury will partner van Dijk at the back to control Fulham’s main man up top. Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez will provide cover on the flanks.
Fulham manager, Slavisa Jokanovic is under increased scrutiny at the moment. Being at the bottom of the table after spending 100m, he is one big loss away from getting the sack. His team has no defensive organisation and they don’t score enough goals to compensate that.
Sergio Rico signed from Seville will remain in goal. Le Marchand and Odoi will try to provide cover though with Ryan Sessegnon and Fonsu Mensah being very attacking full-backs both will be isolated at the back.
A midfield of Seri, Cairney and Anguissa don’t have the defensive discipline to form a midfield capable of keeping this Fulham team in the Premier League. All three attacks at the same time leaving space between midfield and defence allowing the oppositions teams playmakers and wingers to thrive.
Ex-Chelsea boy Schurrle will support Mitrovic and Luciano Vietto who was previously linked with a move to Liverpool whist playing in Argentina.
One to watch: Ryan Sessegnon
Liverpool among with many other clubs have been linked with Ryan Sessegnon since his
breakthrough at Fulham when he was 16. Often deployed on the left-hand side of the pitch whether it be in defence or attack. The young Englishman has got what it takes to reach it at the top level.
Having scored 16 goals and provided a further eight on the way to promotion, Sessegnon promised Fulham he would stay with them if they made it to the top flight, which they did.
With the season progressing the likelihood of Fulham dropping down to the championship is increasing which would means Sessegnon will probably be leaving at the end of the season. Though not at the 50m which Liverpool and Spurs were reportedly quoted.
Ryan Sessegnon is different to the wingers Liverpool have, he is left footed playing on the left-hand side means he will run down the line and cross it in as oppose to cut inside and open up space.
Playing at Anfield will give the left sided player, an opportunity to give both Klopp and his team a reason why to splash the cash on the youngster.
Key talking points
Ending a poor spell on a high – Since the last International break Liverpool have won three drawn one and lost one. The last two results have been sub-par to say the least. Sunday gives the Reds’ an opportunity to go into the International break back to winning ways.
With Fulham’s dodgy defence and one of Shaqiri and Keita expected to support the attack. Our attacking brilliance from last season could return. Three points and only three points should be demanded after the performance mid-week. A convincing 90 minutes like the performances in the latter stages of last season where it would be a matter of how much we won by and not if we won, would do nicely.
With Everton travelling to Chelsea and the Manchester Derby both being played after the Liverpool game on Sunday. Liverpool could also head into the break top of the league with results going our way.
Liverpool should have enough quality to overturn the three-goal advantage on Chelsea if they do win, while we hope Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba can repeat their efforts from last season and win at the Etihad.
This season’s bounce-back – Last year, Liverpool went on a horrendous run of form which included draws to Burnley and Newcastle and embarrassing defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur. The past few weeks have been similar in both performances and results.
It is impossible to take any positives from the game against Red Star, like at Wembley a year ago the Reds’ were poor in all departments. After the defeat which left Liverpool in ninth place, we then went on to win six from the next 10 drawing the other four.
Liverpool’s ability to bounce back from defeats have been quite impressive since Jurgen was announced as manager. The Reds’ have never lost consecutive League games since his arrival.
Jurgen Klopp will demand his players give 110% after Tuesday’s result and will hope his teams can copy the resurgent of last season that saw Liverpool lose only 3 of the remaining 29 games.
Last five results
Premier League – 01/05/2012 Liverpool 0-1 Fulham
Premier League – 22/12/2012 Liverpool 4-0 Fulham
Premier League – 12/05/2013 Fulham 1-3 Liverpool
Premier League – 09/11/2013 Liverpool 4-0 Fulham
Premier League – 12/02/2014 Fulham 2-3 Liverpool
On paper this should be quite an easy performance for Liverpool, but as we showed against
Huddersfield and Red Star that if you don’t perform to the best of your ability, you will get punished.
Fulham have been the weakest side of the Premier League and are on course to concede a record 114 goals. With Naby Keita expected to return to the starting line-up. The fluidity between the midfield and attack should vastly improve. With our front three swapping positions often throughout the 90 minutes, this game could get ugly for Fulham.
Dejan Lovren and van Dijk will need to deal with Mitrovic, With Fulham pumping long balls up to the Serbian, the height of both our defenders should stifle Fulham’s attack.
Liverpool bounce back well from a defeat and often with all guns blazing, I’m going for a 5-0 win to Liverpool though I wouldn’t be surprised if we scraped past them by a single goal. With such a
convincing win, and with the return of Naby Keita hopefully this can be the start of Liverpool finally clicking.
Liverpool 5 (Salahx2, Mane, Firmino, Keita) – 0 Fulham