Liverpool and Manchester City secured comfortable wins in their Champions League ties on Tuesday before Chelsea and Manchester United really turned on the style the following evening. Here, we pick out some of the key talking points…
Liverpool have gone a long way to emulating the success of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in recent years, playing scintillating football en route to a Premier League title last season as the Blues had 12 months before.
Where Jurgen Klopp might have done well not to follow his league-winning predecessor is getting caught out at the back. Just as City were left to rue the decision not to replace Vincent Kompany last summer, who thought the departure of Dejan Lovren would now leave Liverpool ruing their luck with Klopp openly admitting he will pick between one of three untested youngsters to partner Joe Gomez against West Ham on Saturday.
Yes, Rhys Williams looked a safe pair of hands for an hour against Midtjylland. But this is not a side of the quality Liverpool will face in any Premier League game this season.
Klopp admitted after the game he faces a likely choice between Williams, fellow youngster Nathaniel Phillips or 17-year-old Billy Koumetio – who has made only one appearance above U18 level – to line up alongside Gomez this weekend. Any Premier League side would find that a struggle, let alone a team looking to retain their league crown.
Yes Liverpool have been unlucky to be struck down in the one position they were least prepared to fill, and Klopp has made a valid defence of the difficulties of keeping four top-class centre-backs happy. But when three injuries take Klopp from arguably the world’s best defender to a 19-year-old without a Premier League appearance to his name, it would be wrong for questions not to be asked.
Other issues lay elsewhere in Tuesday’s laboured victory. While Williams was providing an impressively calm stand-in performance in defence, at the other end of the pitch Liverpool’s swapped-out front three of Xherdan Shaqiri, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi were floundering, with the latter two hooked after an hour.
Shaqiri rescued an otherwise unproductive performance with a major part in the opening goal but Klopp will have been given little reassurance he can count on any of the trio to fulfil a long-term role should injury hit his regular front three in anywhere near the same manner as it has his defensive ranks.
Sat Oct 31: West Ham (h)
Tues Nov 3: Atalanta (a)
Sat Nov 7: Man City (a)
Wed Nov 25: Atalanta (h)
Sat Nov 28: Brighton (a)
Tues Dec 1: Ajax (h)
Sat Dec 5: Wolves (h)
Wed Dec 9: FC Midtjylland (a)
Sat Dec 12: Fulham (a)