Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool tenure has not been one marked with unexpected tactical tweaks ahead of big games.
José Mourinho is known for shaking things up on the biggest stages in efforts for excess solidity, and Pep Guardiola has often been his own worst enemy in European competition, sometimes taking things a step too far in his quests for those all-important tactical gains.
That is not a traditional Klopp trait, though, with the German generally edging towards footballing conservatism in the Champions League knockouts. And that is why his starting line-up – and the preference for Naby Keïta ahead of Thiago Alcântara – was such a big story, as Liverpool took on Real Madrid in the Spanish capital.
In short, the masterplan backfired.
Liverpool looked disjointed, Real took a two goal lead and Thiago was on in his Guinean teammate’s place before half-time.
A return to familiarity saw a second-half improvement, exemplified by the turnaround from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had been at fault for the hosts’ second.
After Mo Salah slammed the Premier League Champions back into the tie, though, Luka Modrić was allowed to waltz into the Liverpool penalty area and pick out Vinícius Jr, who doubled his tally and the Spaniards’ advantage midway through the second-half.
That Salah goal – more specifically, that Salah away goal – gives Liverpool some hope heading into the second leg next week.
But it is Real Madrid who are firmly in the driver’s seat ahead of their visit to Anfield, and it is safe to say that Klopp ‘got it wrong’ today.
Ali 5.5 – Hard to fault the Brazilian for the first two Real goals. Should arguably palm number three away, though.
Trent 6.5 – Worst player on the pitch in the first half, but arguably the best in the second. Some very sloppy early passing amongst the horrifically-weighted header that put Asensio through for the Real second. Stepped it up after the break – especially on a passing front – but sadly his seemingly crucial defensive intervention when left two-on-one lost its redemption value as the Reds conceded a disappointing third just moments later.
Natty P 5.5 – Some impressive interceptions but looked massively vulnerable to any and every run in behind. Could have been tighter to Vinícius for the third.
OK 6.5 – One of few bright sparks in the first half, saving his side when left one-on-one, on occasion, before an ugly skewed backpass almost killed the tie.
Robbo 5.5 – In a sticky run of form. Poor in possession, once again.
Baby Keith 5 – The Reds’ surprise starter might not even have been the worst first-half performer, but equally he can have no complaints with being hooked early. Looked lost.
Gini 5.5 – Thoroughly disappointing throughout the evening, bar his run from deep in the build-up to the Salah goal.
Mo 6.5 – Quiet, but scored a (hopefully) crucial away goal.Embed from Getty Images
Sadio 5.5 – The Reds’ best first-half performer, until he looked bereft of confidence/belief/touch (delete as applicable) once again late on.
Diogoal 6 – Seemed overwhelmed in the opening exchanges. Decent work in build-up to the goal, though.
ThiaGOAT 6 – Was not himself totally innocent of sloppy moments, but the team looked more comfortable after he entered proceedings.
Bobby 6.5 – Might have won a free-kick or two from Militao, but didn’t.
Little Shaq 6.5 – Positively impacted the game, but did not have enough time to completely work his magic.
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