Jurgen Klopp warned two Liverpool stars have weakness that will cost Reds Champions League
Robbie Savage believes Liverpool full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson are vulnerable defensively in one-on-one scenarios and thinks the Reds’ injury crisis will ultimately cost them Champions League qualification and see them finish fifth.
The Reds faced Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday without any of the four senior centre-back options with which they started the season.
None of Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are likely to play again this season while Fabinho is currently sidelined with a minor muscle problem.
That meant Ozan Kabak joined captain Jordan Henderson, a central midfielder who has played at centre-back in six of Liverpool’s last seven Premier League games, at the back against the Foxes.
But Savage believes the 4-1 defeat to leaders Manchester City at Anfield a week earlier showed that Alexander-Arnold and Robertson can be got at by opposing attackers.
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And the former Leicester and Derby midfielder reckons the Reds will not finish in the top four due to such weaknesses at the back, which are being greater exposed by their injuries.
Liverpool slipped up again on Saturday to lose 3-1 to Leicester at the King Power Stadium, three goals in seven minutes late on from James Maddison, Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes handing the hosts a victory which puts them six points clear of the Merseyside outfit.
However Savage believes that Jurgen Klopp and co. deserve credit for the fact they are even in a position to qualify for the Champions League given how many fitness problems they’ve had to endure this season.
He told BT Sport pre-match: “I’ve got them fifth. If they had every player fit, they finish top four no problem and possibly give Man City a run. I think Man City will win the title.
“This is their 16th centre-back pairing of the season so far. That’s a huge blow.
“The full-backs in one-on-one situations, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, two of the best full-backs in the world, but in one-on-one situations what I noticed last week against Man City, they struggle defending them.
“Is that because they’re reluctant to go forward? Is that because no Gomez and Van Dijk? People talk about the absence of Van Dijk which is huge but for me, the two centre-backs being out, the next six games when Gomez was in the side after Van Dijk got injured, they only conceded three Premier League goals.
“When Gomez got injured as well, those two out of the side, you’re disrupting the whole team. Henderson and Fabinho centre-half, the whole team is unbalanced.
“But for Liverpool to be challenging still with the injuries they’ve had is credit to Klopp. They’re a fantastic team, that’s why I’ve got them fifth. They’re just not right.
“They can’t score goals at home. If they had everybody fit, top four, but I think it’s an unprecedented season and amount of games. You look at the squad now.
“You look at Chelsea’s squad, momentum, new manager. Coming off that bench, Thiago wonderful player, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, [Xherdan] Shaqiri, who’s going to change the dynamic of the game?
“Look at Leicester’s side, you’ve got players who can change the dynamic of the game. That squad is suffering.”
Manchester United legend Ferdinand, however, has tipped Liverpool to finish third at the end of the season and is backing City to win the league and United to finish second.
The former centre-back said: “That’s why I’ve got them in the position they are. They’re lacking consistency, they’re lacking confidence, they’re lacking form.
“I don’t see them mounting a challenge to win the league this season.”
Liverpool won the league with 99 points last season but before facing Leicester had only won 11 of 24 games this term, having won 23 of 24 at the same stage last season.
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Ferdinand added: “You need an element of luck as well [to retain the title]. Luck comes into it with injuries and suspensions. It’s so difficult.
“You’ve gone from the team chasing the title to the team who have won it and have set a benchmark so now you’re the target, how do you deal with that as an individual?
“Players look at you, analyse you and approach you differently but also as a team.”
Liverpool have not missed out on Champions League qualification since the 2015-16 season, when Klopp joined the Merseyside outfit in October and they finished eighth and also lost in the finals of the League Cup and the Europa League.
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