Liverpool head into this weekend’s derby against Everton after a very good showing in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, winning their division with three wins and three draws. But it’s not the number of points that’s the impressive part. It’s the number of goals the Reds scored in the group stage. The English side buried 23 goals through six matches while surrendering just six goals to their opponents. In fact, Liverpool broke an English record for the most goals scored in the group stage by a Premier League team. The next closest was the 98-99′ Man United Red Devils, who won it all that year.
Liverpool wasn’t matched up with a necessarily difficult division, with Sevilla, Maribor, and Spartak Moscow. But the only side to have more goals in the entire group stage was PSG, who scored 25 goals. The next closest: Real Madrid who had 17 goals in their group stage.
Liverpool is stacked with a wealth of offensive talent in the midfield and up front with Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah. In Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of Spartak on Wednesday at Anfield, Coutinho tallied a hat trick while Salah scored in the 86th minute. Firmino scored one and Sadio Mane, scored twice. These four players are vital in the offensive production of this Liverpool side. With Mane and Coutinho on the respective right and left flanks, they can create lots of chances from the wings and use their speed down the flanks to get balls into the box.
Salah is the real gamechanger for this Liverpool team. He is one of the big reasons they can be a contender this year. He leads the Premier League in goals with 12 in 15 appearances. The Egyptian buried five goals in six games in Champions League group play. Salah has added a much-needed spark to their front line. The “Fab Four”, in Coutinho, Fabinho, Salah, and Mane, are one of the most deadly combinations in the last 16 and will play a huge part in the success of the Reds in the next round. If those four are clicking on all cylinders, Liverpool could practically beat anyone.
Tuesday’s ball control was phenomenal
It was evident in Tuesday’s match against Spartak of just how dangerous they can be. Every one of Liverpool’s goals was created by opportunities from one of these four. the ball movement, the clever flicks, you name it. They always know where each other are and were practically passing the ball around the entire Spartak defense, even inside the box. The reason they are having so much success because none of them are selfish. They all realize that if they play as one and move the ball around, the chances on goal will come. That’s exactly what happened in the group stage for them.
Defense has improved since loss to Tottenham in October
Since Liverpool’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on October 22nd, the Reds have only surrendered six goals through eight games in that span, including Champions league play. When it comes to just Premier league fixtures, they have only given up three goals in six matches. Playing at home has been an advantage too. The Reds have only conceded two goals at home this season in EPL play. Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan have done a better job of containing opposing offenses in the center of the field and are playing more physical. Jurgen Klopp has turned to youth at right back with Joe Gomez, who is decent on the ball and is very quick on his feet. He’s been a mainstay for Liverpool on the back line.
Anything is possible
It’s not like Jurgen Klopp changed his entire back line since that embarrassing loss to Tottenham in October. But they were dealing with a lot of scrutiny on how bad their defense was playing. It obviously hit them hard and the Reds decided to start playing smarter and grittier defense. Their defense is night and day from what it was just over a month ago. If they can contain an offense like Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, two teams they could match up within the round of 16, they can definitely contend. Their offensive line is world class. There’s no doubt they will continue to score goals, no matter the defense they’re up against.
Liverpool is currently on a high. they are playing all around great football and will carry that mentality and confidence into this weekend’s Derby matchup with the Toffees of Everton. This will be New Everton Manager Sam Allarydce’s first game as bench boss. This team will have a different feel with Allardyce as manager. The Englishman has a track record of taking relatively weak teams to Liverpool and beating them. Last year he took a poor Crystal Palace team to Anfield and beat The Reds. Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno will be out with an ankle injury. With the short break between Liverpool’s UCL game on Tuesday, there’s a chance the “Fab Four” won’t all be in the starting eleven. The last time Everton beat the Reds at Anfield was in 1999.
As for the round of 16 draw, it will take place on Monday.