John Aldridge: 'Genk exposed a concerning weak spot in Liverpool ahead of crucial Man City clash'
THERE was a strangely muted atmosphere at Anfield against Genk and it didn't help the Liverpool players who turned in a pretty average performance.
Jurgen Klopp's side got the win they needed thanks to a fine goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but this was not one of those special European nights at Anfield as it felt like the warm-up act for what is to come on Sunday.
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The mammoth Premier League game against Manchester City this weekend may have been at the back of the minds of a few players and it was certainly in Klopp's thoughts when you look at the team he selected.
Andy Robertson, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were among the first choice starters left on the bench by Klopp, who hoped his side would have had enough to blow Genk away in the opening hour of the game.
Yet Liverpool have struggled to keep clean sheets all season and that was the story again last night, with Genk breaching the Liverpool defence just before half time and exposing a weak spot that will be a concern ahead of the game against City on Sunday.
That said, City manager Pep Guardiola is clearly rattled by Liverpool's form and he confirmed as much with his suggestion that Klopp's team are 'diving' their way to success, which was a laughable accusation from a manager not happy because a team has dared to produce better results than his own.
Away from action on the field yesterday, the other big story was the confirmation that Liverpool's Carabao Cup quarter-final will be played on December 17th, at a time when the first-team squad will be away playing the FIFA World Cup Club in Qatar.
I'm not fully aware of the proposals Liverpool were given to play this game, but it is hugely detrimental to the Carabao Cup that one of the giants of English football will be playing an under-23 side against a full-strength Villa side at the back end of the competition.
Liverpool are right to prioritise the tournament in Qatar because the club wants to win big trophies and as reigning European champions, they have every right to give everything they have to win the World Club Cup.
I would like to have seen a route that would have allowed the Carabao Cup game at Villa to be played with Liverpool's first-team involved, but this may be the only solution and I can't help but feel we would have been better off allowing Arsenal to play this tie in these circumstances.
Liverpool beat Arsenal to book their play in the quarter-finals, but it's embarrassing for the organisers that they are going to be fielding a team of kids and basically writing off their chances of winning a Wembley final.
If we needed evidence that we are trying to cram too much into a football season, this crazy scenario confirms it and it's a real shame that the League Cup I won with Oxford back in 1986 has been devalued to a point where top teams are willing to sacrifice it in pursuit of more important trophies.