EPL

Liverpool 'need a player like Thiago' as Klopp considers options for Man United clash

By Sports Desk January 16, 2021

Thiago Alcantara could be just the option Liverpool need to kick-start their title defence as Jurgen Klopp ponders whether to hand the midfielder a first Anfield start against Manchester United.

The reigning Premier League champions are yet to see the best of the high-profile signing from Bayern Munich, Thiago having seen his early months on Merseyside hampered by illness and injury.

However, having recovered from a knee issue suffered on October 17 against Everton, the Spain international has featured in Liverpool's past three games, including playing the full 90 minutes of the 1-0 defeat away at Southampton on January 4.

Next up for the Reds is a clash with table-topping United, leaving Klopp to decide if he hands the 29-year-old a long-awaited home debut on Sunday.

"We will see," Klopp said on the possibility of Thiago being in the starting XI to face United. "The most important thing is he's fit, trained, all good.

"He had now 90 and 45 minutes in the last two games. So, we will see if he can play, which position he will play because there are obviously different options and all that stuff.

"But it's really good to have him around now because he's a really good guy and obviously an exceptional football player. It's like a new signing obviously.

"Now he's here and let's hope that it will stay like this for a long, long, long time."

Thiago played in a deep-lying role in Liverpool's midfield at Southampton, completing 89 per cent of his passes and creating one chance as the visitors dominated possession after falling behind early to a Danny Ings goal. The visitors finished with an xG of 1.5, yet managed just one attempt on target for all their dominance.

John Barnes believes Thiago's ability to pick a pass in tight spaces could be crucial in certain circumstances during the remainder of the campaign, particularly as Klopp's much-vaunted forward line has struggled of late when faced with opponents willing to cede territory and get players behind the ball.

Since putting seven past Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on December 19, Liverpool have mustered one league goal in three games. 

"He is very important because it gives us an option," Liverpool legend Barnes told Stats Perform News.

"You need a player like him. I always felt that as much as we've done really well, we've won the league and not lost many games, there are times when teams defend in numbers, get 10 men back behind the ball, and our three midfield players aren't as creative.

"And they don't have that. It's not even flair, it's the insight for the passes in really, really, tight areas, and being able to receive the ball in tight areas and be more creative.

"But that doesn't happen for 90 per cent of the time, as 90 per cent of the time our three midfield players are [Jordan] Henderson, [Georginio] Wijnaldum and Fabinho, those types of players. They stand us in good stead. Not that we've had to change anyway, because we've won the league and lost two games, it's not as if we needed that.

"However, there are the odd games when that's what we need, and therefore that's what he gives us.

"Now, that's not to say that he's going to play every week, or if we were going to play against Manchester City, who may dominate possession more than we do, would we rather play like Thiago Alcantara? Or would you rather have a player like Wijnaldum or Henderson or [James] Milner, who's going to get around and tackle because that's what we need?

"What he's done, though, is he's given us options. And Jurgen has used him wisely, because the games we have used him in is when he knows we're going to dominate possession, whereby he wouldn't be needed that much defensively."

Liverpool, who go into the United game three points behind their opponents, could have Joel Matip available following an adductor injury, Klopp admitting the centre-back is "close" to a return.

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