Analysis :- Midfield pressing proved key as Liverpool go past United into last 8


Liverpool are through to the quarterfinals of the Europa League, with 1-1 draw against United at Old Trafford proved enough for a 3-1 aggregate win.

Klopp made one forced change to the lineup that featured in the first leg at Anfield, with James Milner replacing injured Alberto Moreno in the left-back position. It was 4-4-1-1 shape with Milner on the left-back; Can and Henderson patrolling the midfield; Coutinho and Lallana on left and right flanks respectively; Firmino and Sturridge in a flexible front two.

After early exchanges it was a sure thing that Liverpool will absorb pressure and look to hit United on the counter. Sturridge peeled himself on the right hand side, Firmino dropped deep at times to join the midfield, Coutinho and Lallana tracked back to help their fullbacks, Can and Henderson commanding the midfield. It was not a typical high-line pressing from Reds, it was more of midfield pressing and trying to not allow United’s midfield to influence the game.

We’ll analyse as to how Liverpool absorbed pressure and hit United on the counter with the help of tactics board :-

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As we see in the image above, there was more emphasis on midfield pressing and trying to dominate the United midfield. Sturridge floating in and around the right flank combining with Lallana in possession and trying to press the wide areas. Firmino was more often than not in the central area which kept the United centre-backs busy, he never pressed very high rather dropped off a bit and helped Can and Henderson in pressing the central area and squeezing United.

Milner was under huge pressure to perform on the big stage in an unfamiliar position, Coutinho was clever in tracking back and helping out Milner, on more than few occasions Coutinho tried to cover the gap between centre-back and fullback so whenever a break is on, the Brazilian finds himself in a tucked in position and he has certain room to run into.

Can was exceptional in commanding the midfield area, he really made that section of the field his own. The German was very good when it comes to tracking back centrally and not allowing any space for Juan Mata or Rashford to create something very expansive. His passing was way better and looks a good man in midfield come the near future for the Reds.

Lallana did a similar defensive job as was done by Coutinho, he tried to cover up the gap between centre-back and fullback, linked up well with Sturridge on the right hand side, held the ball well when required in tight spaces. Clyne was literally struggling to hold Martial in 1 v 1 situations, so Lallana’s defensive duties were as crucial as his offensive duties.

It was another clever move by Klopp to let United have the ball in their own half but press them when it comes to manipulating chances from midfield, solidity in the midfield was key and the German manager was spot on in employing that tactic here. As a result of that, whenever Liverpool had possession in deeper midfield, they had United midfielders committed forward allowing likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Sturridge to run straight at the back four.

In the end it was a comfortable night for Liverpool once Coutinho scored that magic flicked goal at the stroke of half time to virtually kill the tie. Next up for Liverpool is another big challenge for them, home and away legs to Borussia Dortmund. Klopp will be keen to put one over his old teammates and fans.

By Mizgan on 18th March, 2016

Twitter- @mizgans

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