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John Aldridge: 'Liverpool need to make sure they guard against a disaster on Tuesday night'

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Liverpool's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (R) strikes the ball to score the opening goal ahead of Bournemouth's Welsh defender Chris Mepham (L) during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on December 7, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Liverpool's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (R) strikes the ball to score the opening goal ahead of Bournemouth's Welsh defender Chris Mepham (L) during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on December 7, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

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Liverpool's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (R) strikes the ball to score the opening goal ahead of Bournemouth's Welsh defender Chris Mepham (L) during the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Liverpool at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on December 7, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

LIVERPOOL passed another test as they eased past Bournemouth today, but they were also reminded how fragile their position could be as they cemented their position at the top of the Premier League.

Anyone who says the title race is over 16 games into the season are living in 'cloud cuckoo-land' and we were given evidence of that yesterday as Dejan Lovren limped out of the action in the first half.

Manchester City's title challenge has faltered this season after some of their key defenders picked up injuries and the same could happen to Liverpool as they are struggling to plug gaps at the back if Lovren is out for an extended period.

Without wishing to have a dig at the Croatian centre-back who has been excellent since he returned to the team, Lovren has been known to go missing at times during his Liverpool career and can be a little flaky when it comes to injuries.

With Joel Matip also a little injury prone and in the treatment room at the moment alongside another potential defensive option in Fabinho, Liverpool would have a major problem if something happened to Virgil van Dijk in the next few weeks.

The FIFA World Club Cup in Qatar will be sandwiched into a hectic run of Premier League fixtures in December, so Jurgen Klopp needs all his best players to select from in the next few weeks and that is not the position he finds himself in.

Mistake

So should Liverpool guard against a defensive nightmare by making a move in the transfer market to bolster the backline in January? I'm not so sure.

Even though I think Manchester City made a big mistake when they failed to sign a defender to replace Vincent Kompany last summer and it has cost them points this season, Liverpool are not in that position right now so long as their injuries players are not out for too long.

You might think I'm being a little pessimistic here, but I would argue I'm being realistic because Liverpool's position at the top of the table could melt away very quickly if they are forced to play a couple of youngsters who are not ready for first-team football at the heart of a defence that has looked shaky all season.

When you look at their defensive record, Klopp's side have done incredibly well to reach the second week of December dropping just two points in the Premier League, with the cleansheet yesterday their first since a fortunate away win at Sheffield United in September.

What they did show against Bournemouth was more evidence that their attacking play is too much to handle for most Premier League opponents.

Klopp rested two of his most dangerous attacking players in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane, but Liverpool still had more than enough class to overcome Bournemouth as they showed flashes of inspiration to win with ease at the Liberty Stadium.

I have been critical of Mohamed Salah in recent weeks and with some justification as he has been a long way below his best, but the awareness he showed to set up Naby Keita's goal yesterday was a reminder of the class he can inject into a game at any moment and his goal should give him an injection of confidence.

Liverpool need Salah to be at his best heading into this crucial phase of the season and we saw some signs yesterday that they maestro who was left out of the Liverpool starting line-up from the Merseyside derby is ready to spark back into life.

It was also great to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain get on the score sheet and turn in another good performance, with the attacking end of Klopp's team in full working order.

Bournemouth were lacking confidence and that is understandable as they have been on a poor run in the Premier League, with Liverpool more than good enough to take advantage and pick their defence apart.

I've been suggesting for some time that Liverpool were ready to smash five goals past someone and they did that against Everton last Wednesday, with the contributions of Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi in that game confirming Klopp's back up players can make a big impact.

Now Liverpool can get their sights set on a game that could be viewed as the most crucial of the season so far, as their Champions League defence could end if they were to slip up against a dangerous Red Bull Salzburg side on Tuesday night.

Disaster

They may be the reigning European champions, Liverpool's record away from home in Europe has been less than convincing in recent years and Salzburg will treat this game as the biggest cup final they have ever played in.

A Salzburg win would probably end Liverpool's reign as the kings of European football, assuming Napoli get the job done against Genk and that scenario is more than possible if Liverpool are not at their best.

Momentum is so important in any sport and Liverpool have everything going their way right now, but they need to make sure they guard against a disaster on Tuesday night.

Online Editors