Midfield battle is crucial, Coutinho should start and other talk points as Liverpool face Sevilla

Alex Rea 12/09/2017
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Liverpool kick off their Champions League Group E campaign against European bogey side Sevilla at Anfield on Wednesday night.

The repeat of the 2016 Europa League final will see Jurgen Klopp’s men seek to exact revenge for the 3-1 defeat suffered in Basel, but they have an indifferent home record against Spanish teams.

They’ve won just five of 16 games at Anfield but that is negated by their La Liga counterparts who are yet to win away to an English side in European competition.

Ahead of the mouthwatering clash, we look at three key talking points…

THE GAME WILL BE WON IN MIDFIELD

Liverpool receive plenty of plaudits for their front three threat but the explosion up top is combined with a tireless midfield trio which can trample over sides.

Jordan Henderson directs from deep while Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum have adopted attack-mid and box-to-box roles to overrun opposition midfields.

That was the case up until the demolition suffered at Man City where Liverpool’s midfield disintegrated, Wijnaldum anonymous, Can clumsy and Henderson headless.

When Sadio Mane disappeared down the tunnel, so did the trio and if Jurgen Klopp decides against a shuffle and all three should start against Sevilla, they can’t afford to slip.

Indeed, Sevilla coach Eduardo Berizzo has the physicality of Guido Pizarro and Steven N’Zonzi at the base of his midfield in a 4-3-3 and that potent partnership is more than capable of wrestling control away from the hosts.

In front of those two is classy operator Ever Banega who will dictate their attacks and look to break in between the lines. Whichever trio comes out on top they will likely see their side to victory.

Henderson in action against Man City

Henderson in action against Man City

IT’S THE RIGHT TIME TO PHIL COUTINHO BACK IN

Klopp made the bold decision to leave Philippe Coutinho out of his squad entirely for the trip to City as he continues his reintegration but there’s no doubt he should start against Sevilla.

While the pace and power of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane has masked their early season troubles, Roberto Firmino has only shown glimpses of his dynamism in the No9 slot so far and is crying out for his Brazilian counterpart.

Wijnaldum’s dire showing on Saturday should see him drop out and Coutinho brought back into the fold.

Unleashing the fearsome four of Coutinho, Mane, Salah and Firmino will have Liverpool fans salivating and the opposition sweating.

Coutinho was left out of the squad against City but returns against Sevilla

Coutinho was left out of the squad against City but returns against Sevilla

SEVILLA’S PACE CAN UPSET THE REDS

Liverpool crumble quicker than wet cement under the pressure of pace and the problem with Klopp’s high press is that it leaves them vulnerable if teams are quick enough to break through.

It will be of great concern then that Sevilla have various speed merchants in their ranks with big summer buy Luis Muriel a powerful but rapid spearhead while Jesus Navas and Wissam Ben Yedder are incisive operators.

Dejan Lovren will likely return to the starting XI after Ragnar Klavan’s dismal display at the Etihad and the pressure will be on both the Croatian and Joel Matip to stem the flow.

In front of them, should he start, Henderson has a lot of making up to do after his personal surrender last weekend.

Liverpool are hallmarked by their speed going forward and although it’s their chief deterrent, it’s also an Achilles heel.

Navas returned to Sevilla in the summer after a spell with Man City

Navas returned to Sevilla in the summer after a spell with Man City

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After Man City demolition Mohamed Salah rallies Liverpool ahead of Sevilla Champions League clash

David Cooper 12/09/2017
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Mohamed Salah has implored his Liverpool team-mates to forget the 5-0 demolition suffered at Manchester City as they prepare to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Group E opener.

The Reds slumped to a demoralising defeat with Jurgen Klopp’s men handicapped by the controversial dismissal of star man Sadio Mane.

However, up until that point they had been in good form with Salah in particular beginning his Anfield career in style with two Premier League goals to his name already.

“I’m very happy to have this start with the team and to help the team win points and win games,” Salah told LiverpoolFC.com

“I’m very happy to be here, it’s like my family. I’m happy to be [at] the club with these players.”

Of the Champions League clash with Sevilla, he added: “We have to look forward to the next game, forget that result and play like before.

“I’m very, very excited to start the Champions League games at Anfield. I would like to win that game!”

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Juventus star Paulo Dybala refuses to rule out possibility of joining Lionel Messi at Barcelona

David Cooper 12/09/2017
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Paulo Dybala insists he is happy at Juventus but refused to rule out the tantilising prospect of joining up with Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

The 23-year-old was persistently linked with a move to Camp Nou over the summer following Neymar’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

The two sides meet in the Champions League tonight and Dybala has started the season in sensational form with seven goals in four games.

When asked about the possibility he could link up with Messi at club level in the future, he said: “He’s already my team-mate for Argentina but I’m really good at Juventus, although I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I’m very happy to wear an important shirt like the number 10.

“Nobody said anything to me [about a Barca bid]. The club never came to me to say there was an offer on the table.

“The only thing the club said to me is that they want me to be part of this project for a long time, and I’m happy about that. As long as the club and the president [Andrea Agnelli] want me at Juve, that’s where I’ll be.”

Juve boss Max Allegri has tipped Dybala to align himself alongside Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to compete for player of the year honours.

In response, he said: “What the boss said is nice but they will still be playing for many years. I will try to get to that level as soon as possible.

“I just think about working hard and improving all the time. I have great team-mates who help me a lot.”

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