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Wednesday 13 November 2019

John Aldridge: 'Off-form Pool need to click back into gear against Genk'

HE’S BACK: Mohamed Salah in training for Liverpool ahead of the clash with Genk. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine
HE’S BACK: Mohamed Salah in training for Liverpool ahead of the clash with Genk. Photo: Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Liverpool need to rediscover their mojo after another below-par performance against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday - and it needs to start tonight against Genk.

I'm heading out to Belgium for a Champions League group game Liverpool need to win, with their record on the road in the competition they won last season leaving a lot to be desired in the last year or so.

They lost all three away games in the group stages last season and still managed to scrape through to the last-16, while they were also beaten in the opening match of this season's competition in Italy against Napoli.

Throw in the semi-final defeat against Barcelona away from home last season and it adds up to a pretty miserable tale of woe for a team that are the current kings of European football and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp needs to make sure this run of defeats stops right now.

Opponents

On paper, Genk are the perfect opponents to get an away win on the board in Europe and if the best Liverpool side shows up this evening, I have no doubt that they will get the three points to put them in a strong position in Group E.

However, I don't believe we have seen Liverpool at their best for a full 90 minutes this season and that has to concern Klopp.

They were very good in the opening 45 minutes of their last Champions League game against Red Bull Salzburg at Anfield, but they conceded three second-half goals and needed to bounce back to secure a much-needed win.

Liverpool were poor again against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, but they got out of the game with a draw and maintained an unbeaten start to the season that is even more impressive when you consider the form they have shown so far.

They were fortunate to get a 1-0 win at Sheffield United last month, did not look convincing in the home victory against Leicester that followed and now I'm hoping the great results they have pieced together in recent weeks will be complemented by performances of the ilk we know they are capable of.

The United game on Sunday summed up Liverpool for me this season, with the lack of dynamism in the side after they fell behind a concern.

Mohamed Salah's absence was a big blow, as he is one of the few players in world football who can inject a moment of magic that can blow opponents away.

Yet I didn't think the midfield offered enough to support Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi in a game that highlighted how far United have fallen since their glory days under Alex Ferguson.

United reminded me of the Wimbledon of old as they sat back and tried to hit Liverpool on the break, with the pace of Marcus Rashford and Daniel James all they could try and hurt their opponents with.

Imagine a Manchester United side being happy with a point against Liverpool and having around 30 per cent possession in a game at Old Trafford during the days when they took great delight in laughing at Liverpool's failings.

Evidence

It was evidence of the slide in their ambitions over the last six years, but Liverpool were not good enough to take advantage of their inadequacies and get the win they should have pushed for.

To be fair, United's young lads did their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proud as they followed his game plan and made it difficult for their opponents, but I expected more from a Liverpool side that has set such high standards in the last year and more.

I feel Liverpool are lacking creativity at present and unless one of their big three up front carves the game open, producing a wonder goal or two, they are struggling to break down opponents, who are happy to sit back and play a waiting game.

So I think the time has come for Klopp to shake his team up tonight and select a team that tries to introduce a little more midfield invention, so expect Naby Keita or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to come in against a Genk side who should be there for the taking.

Despite his goal on Sunday, I don't see Adam Lallana starting this game in Genk and Klopp has to hope he gets Salah back to his best ahead of a big week that will end with a home game against Tottenham at Anfield.

Winning when you are not playing well is a quality all the best teams have up their sleeves, but there comes a point where you need to click back into gear and I will be in Genk tonight hoping to see the real Liverpool come out of their shell and turn on the style.

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