Liverpool: How badly do they need a centre-back
Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara can be the key to the Reds retaining the Premier League title, as he can help unpick defences and unleash their front three. That’s the verdict of John Arne Riise, who believes Thiago can be Liverpool’s answer to Bruno Fernandes.
Liverpool go into Sunday’s table-topping clash against Manchester United at Anfield sat in second place in the Premier League.
The Reds are in the midst of a slump at the moment, having failed to win in their last three league outings.
Defeat against Southampton last week presented United with the chance to leapfrog them in the table, a chance they took as they beat Burnley 1-0 at Turf Moor thanks to a Paul Pogba strike.
United’s form has been a direct contrast to Liverpool’s, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side firing on all cylinders with just one defeat in their last 13 league outings.
Portuguese playmaker Fernandes has been a driving force in their side, having contributed 11 goals and seven assists in 17 league games this season.
But Riise believes Thiago can be Liverpool’s answer to the playmaker, and can provide a lift to the entire Reds squad.
The Spanish midfielder has been missing for large portions of the season through a knee injury, but is now expected to play a more prominent role in the team.
He will likely start against United on Saturday and will be tasked with picking the lock of the Red Devils’ defence.
Thiago, known for his eye for a pass and creative flair, is still slightly behind the pace, but Riise thinks he’ll be the man to unleash Liverpool’s attack.
Jurgen Klopp’s front three of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have been poor recently, with Firmino and Salah not having scored in the league since December 19th.
However, Riise thinks the return of Thiago will spark an immediate improvement in Liverpool’s form.
“Goals have dried up in the last few games but I think the return of Thiago Alacantara is going to put an end to that,” he said.
“He’s such an important player to this Liverpool side.
“His passes can open up defences and he’ll keep things ticking over in the middle of the park, creating chances for his teammates. He’s the main player the team needs back.
“If he plays on Sunday, he’ll be the one who opens up Man United’s defence. For United Fernandes is going to be their main man on Sunday – and Thiago is the guy for Liverpool.
“When Virgil van Dijk first got injured I wasn’t surprised they didn’t seem interested in bringing in a replacement because they had Joe Gomez.
“But then Gomez got injured himself so I thought they might look to bring someone in. At the same time, who is available that’s going to be good enough to come in and do a job?
“You’d have to spend a lot of money on getting someone who is better than what Liverpool currently have available to them, and then when Van Dijk returns and Gomez comes back, what are you going to do with the player you spent big money on?
“Klopp clearly has belief in the players he has available to him and to be fair to them they’ve been good this season – but I can’t wait for Van Dijk to come back.
“Nobody is speaking about Van Dijk’s return which is a bit of a worry. I’ve seen him working on the bikes and things but we don’t seem to have a date on exactly when he’ll be fit again. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.”
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