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Thiago adds what Pool have lacked


Bayern Munich’s Thiago celebrates winning the Champions League with the trophy last month

Bayern Munich’s Thiago celebrates winning the Champions League with the trophy last month

Bayern Munich’s Thiago celebrates winning the Champions League with the trophy last month

We are about to see two big statements from Liverpool which will have a big say, even this early in the season, in whether or not they will finish as champions again.

And if they can get the deal to sign Thiago over the line, and then go and beat Chelsea on Sunday, we'll have a clearer idea if they can do what's expected of them and secure back-to-back titles.

Liverpool have two big tests on the way, Chelsea and then Arsenal, and we'll know after those two how strong they are.

The Premier League has been pretty predictable in one sense over the last few years: lose two games and you're out of the race.

But the champions are pretty hard to beat, they've not lost in the league in a long time, and early in the season you can't get into bad habits, losing games you should win, because you're not quite ready in terms of fitness.

Chelsea is a good test of where Liverpool are this early in the season as, with the money Chelsea have spent, they should be considered contenders.

If Chelsea were to beat Liverpool, that creates an after-effect. I think other teams would fear them more, stand off them more, you get that bit of respect when you beat the champions.

But for everything Chelsea have going forward, the big worry is the goalkeeper and that will be their downfall this season. You need someone who is a lot more commanding, more reliable. In short, someone better than Kepa.

Chelsea started off with a win and, especially when you have a lot of new players in the side, that can spur you on. But I have also seen new-look teams like that where a couple of players lose form, start to struggle, and drop off.

Chelsea have a big squad. A lot of their English players who did well last season probably won't get much of a chance this year, and that's a balancing act for Frank Lampard to try and keep them all happy.

Chelsea have 90 per cent of what they need in place to go and challenge for the league, but they lack a top-level keeper, and that's something that Liverpool will look to expose on Sunday.

Liverpool will have worked hard on their defence on the training ground over the week and maybe conceding three goals to Leeds last week was the kick up the backside that they needed. It could sharpen them up and they'll realise 'we're back to the serious stuff now, we need to be back to the levels we've been at for the last two years.'

Thiago would be a serious signing and he could really add something to that squad.

Liverpool's midfield is very hard-working, very powerful. They do a lot of running and that played a massive part in winning the league.

But they still don't have that guile you need to open up a game, especially the big games.

They rely so much on the front three, and those players are also very hard-working.

But Thiago is the sort of player who could provide a goal on a plate for the likes of Mané or Salah. He can find that through pass, he can split defences. Liverpool don't have that right now, they don't have that clever playmaker in the squad and he will bring a lot to the team.

Thiago coming in would be another piece in the puzzle for them.

He's the kind of player who might not start every game, but he's the one who could come off the bench and open up an opposing team who are tired but have frustrated Liverpool for an hour.

Yet I still think Liverpool need cover at the back.

They are well covered at full back, but Virgil van Dijk is a one-off. When he's on form, he's one of the best centre backs in the world, so it's very tough to have a replacement of that level.

Fabinho not starting last week against Leeds made a difference as he sweeps up a lot of trouble in front of him. He covers so much ground and does it so well.

The back four is one unit but it's that No. 6 role where a lot of the dirty work is done, stopping those attacks even getting to the defenders.

And while the defence looks fine now, if Van Dijk or Fabinho were missing for any length of time, it would leave Liverpool really exposed.

Liverpool would also have to ask, how much would it cost to bring in a player at the level of Van Dijk or Fabinho?

They have seven good defenders so they should be well covered.

But I can also see the value in bringing in few players, for freshness alone, giving the whole squad a lift.

It was an odd start to the new Premier League season, as the two Manchester clubs were able to watch Liverpool last week and assess them, knowing they had a week before they got to play.

There's been a bit of debate about the meaning of Liverpool conceding three goals at home to Leeds United.

As a defender you never like to concede three times, but I wouldn't read too much into the 4-3 scoreline.

In the first game of last season, Liverpool beat Norwich 4-1 ... but it could have finished 4-3 as well as they gave up so many chances - it was just that Norwich didn't convert them.

Leeds are a good side. They play with a high intensity and they had more of the ball than maybe you'd expect away to the champions.

Liverpool had a spell last season when they just couldn't keep a clean sheet, and yet they ended up with the best defence in the league.

They won the game against Leeds without playing as well as we know they can, and it was the same at the start of last season.

I think the message from the manager will be to do the same, to grind out wins, even if you don't play well. And while there could be negative spin on letting in three at home to a newly-promoted side, I'd take the positives from the fact that they were pegged back three times and still won the match.

They will need to be stronger defensively but that will come in time. They will be better and tighter.