English champions Liverpool try their luck at Anfield once again when they lock horns with Fulham on Sunday.
Liverpool have been breaking records over the past couple of years under Jurgen Klopp, mainly with their performances at home. On Thursday, however, they extended their losing streak at Anfield to five matches, following a narrow defeat to Chelsea that further crushed their hopes to finish inside the top four this season.
The Reds will test their luck yet again as they welcome Fulham on Sunday. Having slipped to seventh in the league table, worryingly just one point ahead of Tottenham Hotspur, a victory is imperative, not only in the context of the club’s aspirations but also for manager Jurgen Klopp, whose job at Anfield is seemingly under the microscope.
A matchup against relegation-threatened Fulham might seem like an easier challenge compared to Chelsea flying high under a Thomas Tuchel-led renaissance. In truth, though, the Cotaggers have been the team to beat in the second half of the Premier League at the moment, having lost just once in their last six league matches.
That defeat came against Tottenham, where an unlucky decision by the referee cost them at least two points. In addition, Scott Parker’s men have retained a clean sheet in four of their last six matches – boasting one of the most formidable defences in the Premier League, over the past few weeks.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this highly important encounter in the Premier League this weekend.
Tactics & Team News
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are on course to post a worse Premier League title defence than David Moyes' Man United 👀 pic.twitter.com/v65IWWMIi6
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 5, 2021
Jurgen Klopp’s counter-pressing formula is being countered with the opposition graciously providing them more possession whilst opting for a strong defensive foundation. It echoes the problem he had faced during his catastrophic 2014/15 campaign with Borussia Dortmund.
The biggest challenge, therefore, heading into this Fulham is to devise a way to add that extra penetration going forward. While the offensive trifecta of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino may still continue, despite their horrific performances in recent weeks, there might be more game-time for Diogo Jota.
The Portuguese international made his return to the pitch, in the defeat to Chelsea. Klopp might want to accommodate him back into the starting eleven by dropping Firmino into the number ten role, and featuring Mane as a false nine, paving the way for Jota to start out wide alongside Salah.
This little tactical manoeuvre could come at the expense of a lack of solidity in midfield, but in Thiago Alcantara and Georginio Wijnaldum, the Reds have two of the best-experienced heads they could possibly hope for.
There might still be changes in the defensive unit, though, with winter recruit Ozan Kabak a major doubt heading into this clash. Klopp has confirmed either Nat Phillips or fellow newbie Ben Davies are set to deputise, with the former likely to be preferred alongside Fabinho, at the heart of the Liverpool backline. No particular changes elsewhere.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Fabinho, Robertson; Thiago, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Jota; Mane
Fulham are a team that aren’t afraid of taking charge of the ball, even against the stronger oppositions although they have lacked productivity in the final third, having netted just 21 goals this term.
There might be a change of approach from Scott Parker this weekend, though. In fact, we might see the Cotaggers employing a typical low block considering the struggles Liverpool have had in penetrating opposition defences this term.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) March 5, 2021
In Joachim Andersen, Fulham also boast a prolific passer of the ball, who can produce cross-field passes out from the back. It should be useful for attackers like Ademola Lookman and Ivan Cavaleiro, both of whom are excellent runners.
Striker Josh Maja also provides a lot of work-rate and dynamism, although, against a side like Liverpool, the physically and aerially astute Aleksandar Mitrovic might be a better option in that number nine role.
In midfield, the robust nature of Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa could be preferred ahead of the graceful Mario Lemina, alongside Harrison Reed while Ruben Loftus-Cheek provides the creativity going forward.
Defensively, Fulham are likely to persist with the Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo, although Parker might replace Antonee Robinson with Kenny Tete in order to add more defensive solidity at the back.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Areola; Tete, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Aina; Reed, Anguissa; Cavaleiro, Loftus-Cheek, Lookman; Maja
- Liverpool Clean Sheet – NO @ 1.72
- Full-Time Result – Draw @ 5.00
- Liverpool have lost just one of their 23 top-flight home games against Fulham, with that defeat coming in May 2012 under Kenny Dalglish.
- Fulham haven’t avoided a defeat in both league games against Liverpool in a season since beating them twice in the 2011/12 campaign.
- Fulham have won just two of their 26 away league games against reigning top-flight champions, beating Ipswich 1-0 in March 1963 and Manchester United in October 2003.
- Liverpool have kept a clean sheet in 11 of their 14 Premier League home games against Fulham, shipping just one goal in each of the other three meetings.
- Fulham are looking to become the first London side to win away at both Everton and Liverpool in the same Premier League season since West Ham United in 2015/16.
Player to Watch
Thiago since joining Liverpool:
413 thumbs up.
No contributions, just vibes. 👍 pic.twitter.com/MPmJvulW9K
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) March 4, 2021
Thiago Alcantara has come under major criticism due to his ineffectiveness in Liverpool’s style of play. The critics do make sense, to an extent, as the former Bayern Munich midfielder does tend to slow his team’s offensive endeavours, at times, making it more passive and systematic unlike the usual unpredictable approach we can associate with any Klopp led side.
It makes the Fulham game even more important for Thiago, who might just prosper in a double-pivot system. The Spaniard can operate ideally as the lone holding midfielder, with Wijnaldum and Firmino unleashed in a more attacking role. It allows him to find direct passes, although it will be interesting to see how he evades the opposition’s second line of press.
Either way, Thiago’s performance this weekend could go a long way in dictating Liverpool’s fortunes in this game. It could be crucial for the player as well, as the likes of Naby Keita and Curtis Jones continue to push for a place in the starting eleven.
Liverpool 2-0 Fulham
Liverpool tend to come roaring back when you least expect them. And with Diogo Jota and Fabinho returning to full fitness, the Reds are definitely the favourite to secure all three points in this crucial encounter, despite their torrid run at home. They could also be aided by Fulham’s lack of offensive firepower that should make things easier for the patchwork defence. A 2-0 win for the Reds.