Tuesday 26 March 2019

Richard Dunne: 'There’s a bit of nervousness around Liverpool this week - their fans are right to be worried'

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during a frustrating draw at Anfield. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp watches on during a frustrating draw at Anfield. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

There’s a bit of nervousness around Liverpool this week, between the Champions League draw on Tuesday and their trip to Old Trafford on Sunday (2.05).

And Liverpool supporters are right to be worried. They are still playing well but they are not finishing teams off and, whatever happens in the Champions League, to win the Premier League you need your strikers to be utterly clinical and that’s not the case now.

All through the season I think we have been celebrating how well Liverpool have played defensively, and even against Bayern Munich when they were missing Virgil Van Dijk they did well at the back.

But compared to last season, we have been underwhelmed by what they have done attacking-wise. Mane, Salah and Firmino haven’t hit the heights of last season and you had a taste of that in the Bayern game where Mane missed a chance that he’d probably have scored last season.

They have scored goals this season ... but they also missed a lot of chances along the way.

To win a league you need a solid defence, which Liverpool have, but you also need that striker who will dig out the one opportunity you need to win you a game and Liverpool’s front three are not taking the chances they are getting, that makes the games - and the season - more difficult.

Manchester United away is a hard fixture for them given the form their strikers are on, you might only get one chance in a game like that and you need your forward players to have the confidence to take it, just take the chance and win the game.

But I don’t see that from Liverpool right now, their front three need to do more, their work-rate can’t be questioned but in terms of finishing chances and finishing teams off, they need more, they need a striker they can rely on to put the chance away.

Salah’s weak effort against Bayern, Mane not doing as well as he should have, Firmino going a few games without a goal, that all adds up.

The game at Old Trafford on Sunday should be fascinating, not just in terms of Liverpool trying to win the title but also what United can do.

Since Solskjaer came in they have had a few big tests but the Champions League clash with Paris St Germain was their biggest, and they failed it. As a result of that, there will be doubts over whether they really have improved in the time since Jose Mourinho left.

For Sunday’s game, I feel it’s an advantage for Liverpool to be at Old Trafford and away from Anfield. It’s so long now since the club won the league that the fans are really anxious at Anfield, they want the side to win so badly that it transmits to the players and they suffer a bit, so being away from home, playing in front of 70,000 people who hate them, will take away some of the stress, ease the pressure from their own fans so they can play with a bit more flair.

They should relish that stage and that pressure at Old Trafford, not buckle under it.

Liverpool need to cope better with the pressure on them. They have an opportunity this season to go and win a league, and it seems to me they want someone to give it to them instead of going and taking it for themselves. Manchester City will push them all the way and they have players who know how to win a title so they’ll keep going.

To win a game like this on Sunday you don’t have to be spectacular, you can play a solid enough game if you’re confident that your strikers will take the chance, or chances, they get.

If you are Liverpool you show United the respect they deserve but you also have the mentality that you need to win and Liverpool need to show that at Old Trafford, Liverpool are a better team than them but they need to show that by taking the game to United, exploit the weaknesses in the United side that PSG showed up, they have to put that United back line under pressure.

If that’s how the game pans out it’s crucial for United to keep their heads, not make silly fouls or pick up needless yellow cards, just keep your composure and hope that you have both the speed and intelligence up front to cause Liverpool problems.


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