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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Liverpool's brittle heart worries me

Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini

I'm worried. Ask any Liverpool fan right now how he feels about heading to Old Trafford with a 2-0 advantage and you won't find many brimming with confidence.

That's the way it should be. Liverpool should be sitting in the box seat and cruising against their bitter rivals who, by any standard, are in poor shape.

They are teetering on the brink in the FA Cup after a limp performance against West Ham at the weekend and the Europa League may be all Louis van Gaal has left to fight for.

Nobody really believes that he will be with us in the Premier League for too much longer and his only weapon for this game is the same one he has relied on throughout his less than stellar time as Manchester United boss - Marouane Fellaini.

Whether he stays or goes, he is playing for his reputation in the Europa League and that's why I think there is much more at stake for him in this game than there is for Jurgen Klopp.

Building

In many ways, the Europa League is a free ticket for Klopp. He knows he will have a big wedge of cash and the summer to address problems he has identified and start building the strength of his squad up to Champions League standard.

It would be a big blow to lose for Klopp, the players and the fans but they would get over it.

Because of Klopp's work, there is optimism around Anfield and a feeling that there's a man in control who understands the club, understands the job and has made an accurate assessment of the squad he is currently working with.

Within a few weeks of his arrival, he was focusing on the very weakness which I've been banging on about for years now.

He spotted that Liverpool have developed a brittleness under pressure which I'm not certain he has fully eradicated.

In fact, I would be very surprised if there isn't a seed of chaos lurking in the mind of every Liverpool player and if there's one football ground in the world which will work on and expose any such weakness, it's Old Trafford.

Forget the fact that Liverpool have lost four times to van Gaal at Old Trafford, this is something very different and nothing that happened in the past matters.

I know these lads have played there before but they will not have experienced anything like the wall of noise and let's be honest, raw aggression which will pour down from the stands.

My fear is that United are wounded badly and with 75,000 fans roaring them on, will want to pour on the pressure from the first kick.

That's when these young Liverpool players will learn about their own capacity to perform in white noise, when you can hardly hear yourself think, never mind make a pass.

Klopp himself said yesterday that there should be nothing to fear, given a 2-0 lead and decent recent form, but watching him say the words, I felt that he has the same question in his mind.

If his players are still brittle, if Klopp's influence can only do so much and if they still have doubts about themselves, we will find out in this arena.

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