PSG v Liverpool: Liverpool Must Win the Midfield Battle to Beat PSG4 min read
When Liverpool take to the field at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night, it will be with their Champions League fate on the line. Defeat away to Crvena Zvezda before the international break put Jurgen Klopp’s side on the back foot in arguably the toughest group in this season’s competition, meaning the Reds need at least a point against PSG to secure their place in the last 16.
This is a daunting task. Kylian Mbappe and Neymar might be struggling for fitness following injuries picked up during the international break, but the French champions will still pose a great threat. They still boast enough quality to trouble Liverpool and send them tumbling out of this season’s Champions League at the group stage.
With Mbappe and Neymar potentially missing, this is a game that will be decided in the centre of the pitch. If Liverpool are to emerge from this clash with one of the tournament favourites with their place in this season’s Champions League they must win the midfield battle. They must do better in this regard than they did against Watford.
Klopp got things wrong in the first half at Vicarage Road on Saturday. The German coach opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation from the start, asking Roberto Firmino to play behind Mohamed Salah as the central striker, with Xherdan Shaqiri on the right side. Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum were picked as the midfield duo, but this unit didn’t work.
Until half time, Watford were, at the very least, competitive in the midfield. At times, they were even dominant. The dynamic between Henderson and Firmino, in particular, was fractured, with the latter dropping deeper than the former to pick up the ball and drive it forward. This left Liverpool short of space in the centre of the pitch to utilise.
Conventional wisdom dictates that the higher the number of midfielders, the more control a team is likely to have over a match. But Klopp’s Liverpool go against the grain of conventional wisdom. They can exert a greater control over a match when they have space to use. Liverpool are a dynamic team and that dynamism is most evident in the centre of the pitch, in the midfield.
Another big night in the #UCL tomorrow.⚽️💥
An atmosphere to remember, a dramatic finish and that Firmino celebration.👁🤚
Last time out against PSG… pic.twitter.com/IhJsTBTGds
— Liverpool FC (at 🏠) (@LFC) November 27, 2018
It wasn’t until half time against Watford, when Klopp altered his tactical game plan, that Liverpool started to play their natural game, finishing up 3-0 winners. Against PSG, Liverpool will come up against a far stronger opposition midfield unit, with Adrien Rabiot and Marco Verratti capable of dictating the pace and tempo of a game all on their own.
This will be a real test of where Liverpool are as a team right now. The eye might be drawn to what happens in the final third, such is the level of the talent on both teams’ attacks, but it’s in the midfield where this match will be decided.
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