It’s always dangerous to read too much in a game, but Tuesday’s Champions League game at Atlético de Madrid looked like it would be a major test for Liverpool. However, a 3-2 victory inside the stadium where he won the European title just over two years ago tended to confirm the impressions of the first part of the season. This Liverpool team is exceptional up front, but far from convincing behind.
Liverpool are the only undefeated team left in the Premier League. With the return of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez, which marked the end of the injury crisis in central defender, there has been a return to something like the form of the season before the last. Mohamed Salah in recent weeks has reached new heights, his two goals on Tuesday gave him 11 in Liverpool’s last nine games. Liverpool had scored five in each of their last two away games, at Porto and Watford. The lack of summer transfer activity perhaps meant it has been underrated as a unit heading into this season, but it is clearly one of the top three teams in the Premier League.
However, doubts remain. Is the team deep enough, or could injuries and fatigue catch up with it, especially in January and February, when Salah, Sadio Mané and Naby Keïta are likely to be absent from the Nations Cup? And how strong is he on the defensive? The three games in which he has lost points in the league so far this season have been instructive.
At Chelsea’s home, the problems were in breaking down a well-organized defense, even after Thomas Tuchel’s team had been reduced to 10 men. Against Manchester City, Liverpool survived a first half in which they struggled to keep up in a much more even second half, but even then they felt heavily reliant on Salah’s brilliance and struggled at times to cope with passes. of the City. Many teams, of course, will find it difficult to keep up with City, and that day Liverpool had to line up James Milner as right-back due to an injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Ties against the defending champion and European champion, even at home, are nothing to worry about, but the tie at Brentford, when Liverpool struggled to deal with the pace and intensity of Thomas Frank’s team, perhaps it was. Again, it’s reasonable to point out that Brentford has upset a lot of teams this season and was extremely unlucky to lose to Chelsea on Saturday, but even so, Van Dijk didn’t seem as confident as before with the knee injury.
In that context, the trip to Atlético represented a tough test of how good Liverpool is. Atlético may be the champion of Spain, but they have started the season slowly, although they had only suffered one defeat in the entire season before Tuesday. Eighteen months ago, Liverpool faced Atlético in the knockout stages of the Champions League, apparently in better shape, but lost both legs – a reminder, as if necessary, of how dangerous even an Atlético can be a bit. out of place. .
The return leg, at Anfield, came the day before Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the 100-day shutdown of the English game. A recent multi-party government report was highly critical of allowing that game to go ahead, claiming it resulted in the deaths of 37 people. Perhaps, in the context of 160,000 deaths in the UK, that number is barely recorded, but it is still remarkable that there has not been a major outcry, even after the parliamentary report, over the carelessness that allowed that to happen.
That reckoning, perhaps, is yet to come, and the two will meet again at Anfield on November 3, to potentially draw more attention to the events of that day. From a purely footballing point of view, on Tuesday there initially seemed little chance of a repeat loss. Liverpool managed a two-goal lead against a makeshift defense in 13 minutes, with Salah scoring for a club-record ninth game in a row with a deflected shot after a cut from the right before Keïta volleyed in a sensational second. .
But this is not a Liverpool defense that brims with confidence, and by 35th In the minute Atlético tied. Antoine Griezmann touched first on a Koke shot and then finished brilliantly after a good job from João Félix, with Keïta and Van Dijk beaten too easily in preparation.
Keïta was retired by Fabinho at half-time, but the dynamics of the match changed anyway with Griezmann’s dismissal for a foot high on Roberto Firmino. That not only altered the outlook for this match, but also the rematch at Anfield, with Griezmann now suspended for the contest on matchday four.
As it turned out, Miguel Hermoso gave Liverpool a penalty by dragging Diogo Jota with 13 minutes to go, and Salah made the most of it. Jota was then given a reprieve at the other end, with a lengthy review that left him out of line for looking like he committed a penalty that could have allowed the hosts to steal a point. However, it is three wins from three group games and an overall continuation of their good form for Liverpool, but if they want to win the Premier League or Champions League this season they will have to toughen up defensively.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.