Trailing Villarreal 1-0 from their semi-final first leg in Spain, Liverpool require a far slicker attacking performance back at Anfield if they are to flip the tie on its head and reach the Europa League’s showpiece.
For all their possession at Estadio Madrigal a week prior, Jurgen Klopp’s men seldom penetrated the Villarreal rearguard, as their pedestrian approach play was easily countered by a well oiled unit.
Klopp’s decision not to field a recognised striker was an obvious criticism in the post-match autopsies, though in the German’s defence he was utilising the exact same front three that had wreaked devastation at Chelsea and Manchester City earlier in the season.
Phillipe Coutinho’s under-par performance, which ended prematurely on the half-time whistle, could have been down to illness, but Roberto Firmino was also a disappointment in a display that suggested his best form has tapered over the past month.
In keeping with a strong second half of the campaign, Adam Lallana was arguably the brightest spark Liverpool had going forward and incurred genuine bad luck when clean through 10 minutes from time, only to be wrongly adjudged offside.
Lallana had scored with a very astute finish the week prior against Newcastle in the Premier League and having been fully rested at Swansea between Europa League assignments, the former Southampton captain will be crucial to setting the tempo on Thursday night.
The long-time opinion splitter, turned Klopp and Kop favourite, brings boundless energy to the Reds’ high-pressing game and if he’s on song, then he can help Liverpool restore their attacking mojo at Anfield.
Although six goals for the season is a modest tally for a player of Lallana’s talents, the England international is certainly a man enjoying his football more now than when he twice opened the scoring in the Europa League group stages back in the autumn.
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