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Firmino's Anfield drought massive worry as Madrid zero in


REMARKABLE: Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored at Anfield this season. Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

REMARKABLE: Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored at Anfield this season. Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

REMARKABLE: Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored at Anfield this season. Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

Roberto Firmino is giving Jurgen Klopp a major headache ahead of tonight's Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid.

Liverpool need to come from 1-0 down to claim a quarter-final spot and on current form, Firmino does not merit a place in the starting line-up as he is threatening to go through an entire season without scoring a goal at Anfield.

Just think about that statement for a moment - never in the long history of Liverpool has the player leading their forward line got to the middle of March without scoring a goal on home soil, but that is the position Firmino finds himself in and, unsurprisingly, he has been affected by it.

He has missed some horrible sitters at Anfield this season and had more chances to end his goal drought against Bournemouth last weekend, but his confidence is shot to pieces and I can understand why.

I was fortunate to get through most of my career without too many goal droughts, but I didn't score my first international goal for Ireland until my 20th appearance and it killed me.

Every time I went onto the field in a green shirt, I was desperate for something to fall my way in the box to the first goal out of the way and yet game after game went by and it wouldn't come.

Thankfully, the goals continued to flow for me at club level and the role Jack Charlton was asking me to play with Ireland as the lone striker chasing down lost causes contributed to my lack of goals.

Yet that didn't make me feel any better about it and it must be even worse for Firmino in a season when Liverpool have won game after game and Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have scored goals aplenty.

I'm a big fan of Firmino and fully appreciate that he is vital to how Liverpool function, which is why I'm sure Klopp will stick with the Brazilian as his side look to climb a mountain against an Atletico side more than a capable of keeping a clean sheet at Anfield this evening.

Yet there comes a point when you have to start asking questions about a centre-forward who will last scored in the Premier League at Anfield on March 31 last year.

Klopp will argue that Firmino's overall contribution means he is contributing to the team's success in other ways, but the harsh reality is he is a striker and he needs to score goals.

In a season when Liverpool have run away with the Premier League title, I'm surprised they don't have one or two strikers leading the way in the goal scoring charts, but the biggest shock has to be Firmino's ongoing Anfield misery.

Divock Origi's Champions League performances could lead Klopp to believe he is more likely to score the crucial goals that will be needed against an Atletico team who will use every trick in the book to try and unsettle Liverpool tonight.

Yet Klopp is a loyal manager and he will stand by the boys that have brought the club so much success in the last couple of seasons, with a verdict on Firmino's long-term future as Liverpool's central striker not likely to be made until next summer.

There is talk of Liverpool making a move to sign Red Bull Leipzig's Timo Werner and I have said for a long time that a quality penalty box operator could take this team to another level, but that discussion is for another day.

The priority tonight is finding a way to break down Diego Simeone's team of battlers and once more, Anfield needs to sprinkle its magic dust to lift a Liverpool team that has lost its way.

Last Saturday's 2-1 win against Bournemouth confirmed that Klopp's side are in the midst of a dip in confidence in the last month and they don't look ready to flick the switch and move into cruise control any time soon.

That said, no-one gave Liverpool a chance of coming back from 3-0 down against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals last season and we all know what happened on that remarkable night at Anfield.

Atletico created a hostile atmosphere in the first leg of this tie at their Wanda Metropolitano Stadium and to their credit, they executed a game plan that diluted Liverpool's attacking ambition and saw them snatch a goal from a set-piece.

That will be the plan mapped out by Simeone again and you have to say Atletico are the favourites to go through given Liverpool's form and impact one away goal could have in this tie.

Yet this is no ordinary football club they are up against as everyone in the game now knows that winning at Anfield on a European night is the toughest challenge in the sport.

Psychologically, Atletico's players have to find a way to believe they can triumph where Lionel Messi and his Barcelona pals failed so miserably last season and that is the big factor in Liverpool's favour this evening.