The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League rolls along this week with Group Stage matchday 4. Liverpool host Genk at Anfield. A win here puts Liverpool at 9 points and realistically just needing one draw in their final two matches to advance.
With a massive match-up against Manchester City looming this weekend, Jurgen Klopp was expected to give some players rest. AND HE DID.
Liverpool utterly dominated the first half. 76% possession (felt like more). 15 shots on goal with 3 on target. Genk had two shots on goal with 1 on target. Genk had a total of 3 touches in Liverpool’s box during he first half. So of course the score is 1-1 going into the half.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Liverpool the 2-1 lead with a fantastic finish off an even better set-up from Mo Salah. That score holds. Thanks to the Red Bull Salzburg – Napoli draw, Liverpool move to the top of Group E with 9 points.
Liverpool had 28 shots with 8 on target. Genk had 6 / 3. However, this match never felt secure. Something is off with the squad right now. Genk was pressing at the end like they were…Liverpool. Not a good sign heading into the weekend against City. The defending in particular has got to be better.
Liverpool starting XI vs Genk
Interesting line-up selection by Klopp today. Rotation was expected, but not necessarily like this.
Liverpool Player Ratings
Jurgen Klopp (6) – At this point, it’d be silly to question the boss for his selections. Sitting Salah seems like the right play today but as I’ll write a few times in this, he may be hoping Mo scores some and gains confidence heading into City. More reps for Dejan Lovren and VVD also would make sense, but maybe Gomez is showing better in training. Hard one to judge. Didn’t think he made the right subs (based on performance). Has got to work on the lads not giving up so many big chances defensively. A more clinical team like City will kill us there.
Alisson (8) – Good effort on the Genk leveler. Decent distribution in first half. Critical save in the 81st minute to help preserve the lead. Comes up huge in the 86th minute as well.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (7.5) – Written this a few times the past week but TAA is playing in a different gear right now. So much confidence, particularly when driving up the field. Awesome defending in 40th to kill a dangerous cross. Does the same in the 51st moment to kill a real threat (though it was eventually called off-sides). Led the team in possession by a fairly large margin. Again, our best defender.
Virgil van Dijk (6) – Left unmarked twice in first half on corners but couldn’t convert. Some huge headers at the end to secure the game. Still, something feels off. Too many opportunities conceded.
Joe Gomez (6) – While not hurting us, is drifting back a little too much. Should hold line higher. Defending just isn’t back to last year’s form. Did win 8 aerials.
James Milner (6.5) – Good to see Milly get some run in a spot he’s excelled at. Robbo could benefit from some rest. He’ll run himself ragged vs City.
Milner looks strong again. He won’t get credit for the assist to the Gini opener, but his feed in directly led to the goal. Shifted to midfield when Robbo came on.
Georginio Wijnaldum (7) – Kind of like Gini on the right so far. Tried to find Origi on an ambitious ball in at the 7th minute but it wasn’t weighted well enough. AND HE SCORES THE OPENER. A very proper and opportunistic strike from Gini to put Liverpool ahead 1-0. Definitely a “good Gini” game.
Fabinho (6) – As usual, always where he needs to be. Hockey assisted the second goal. Otherwise a little more quiet than usual.
Naby Keita (6) – Could’ve struck his close-range shot in the 23rd better, wasting a big opportunity. Having said that, looks pretty good. If we played Genk every game then Keita would be playable. He was active and stuffed the stat sheet. Three completed dribbles, three tackles, five shots on goal. Also completed 94% of his passes.
Still isn’t where we all hope he could be. Subbed off for Andy Robertson 74th.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) – A deserved start for Ox. He’s been more effective in that mid-field attacking role but let’s see how he does as part of the front three. Best part of seeing Ox back is the extra gear he’s hitting. Often looks Mane-fast. Freaking gorgeous goal to give Liverpool the 2-1 lead. Another great showing. Subbed off for Sadio Mane in the 75th.
Mohamed Salah (7) – Salah is someone who seems like he needs rest. He’s had a dinged up ankle and has been somewhat ineffective lately. The presumption here is Klopp wants Salah to gain some confidence by lighting up Genk. I do like Salah at the center-forward spot. He’s done well there in the past. Firmino-esque gorgeous pass to assist on Ox’s goal.
His final product though is OFFFFFF. We went through this drill last year when Mo couldn’t finish a sentence. He needs to find his shot again by, erm, Sunday.
Divock Origi (7) – Another Red deserving of a start (and against his former youth team). Key pass to Milner on the build-up on the opening goal. Good early showing. Strong on ball and creative. Dispossession defending work in the 23rd springs a counter that almost led to a goal. Particularly strong on ball with five completed showings. Deserved to find the back of the net once. Subbed off late for Firmino.
Andy Robertson (NR) – Came on for Katy to steady the backline, shifting Milner to midfield.
Sadio Mane (NR) – Came on to secure a game winner for Ox (although Ox was the best attacking player of the day).Roberto Firmino (NR) – Comes on late for Origi. No time to make impact.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earns it again. His form is superb. He needs to find a place in the starting XI against City.