'Liverpool Have The Firepower To Beat Anyone'

The Athletic's James Pearce discusses Liverpool's defensive problems and why their devastating frontline can still lead them to victory in spite of injury worries.
More on this story...

- Leicester City meet Liverpool at Anfield as the Premier League returns on Sunday (7:15pm kick-off)
- City have won their last seven games, while Liverpool are also unbeaten in seven in all competitions
- The Athletic's James Pearce is confident that Liverpool's attack will compensate for the loss of key defenders
- He also expects there to be goals at both ends of the pitch as two attacking sides come together

Leicester City travel to Anfield on Sunday evening (7:15pm kick-off) in search of a seventh consecutive victory in all competitions, which would also be a seventh straight away win in the Premier League.

They face a resurgent Liverpool side, who since losing heavily away at Aston Villa in early October, have been on their own impressive run of form, unbeaten in seven games, including five wins.

Pearce is excited by the prospect of this top of the table clash, as the Foxes meet the Merseyside club for the first time this campaign.

"Leicester performed brilliantly at Anfield last season and were unfortunate not to take something from that game," he recalled with LCFC TV ahead of the fixture.

"And then Liverpool arguably produced the best performance of the title-winning season when they went to King Power Stadium on Boxing Day, so I think history suggests it will be an open, entertaining game.

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Virgil Van Dijk
Virgil Van Dijk

Centre-back Virgil Van Dijk is one of the Liverpool defenders currently out of action.

"It's two teams who want to play football the right way. Leicester aren't one of those teams who are just going to come and set up to frustrate Liverpool and kill the momentum of the game. And I think they'll ask questions of a depleted Liverpool backline, so it'll be a really interesting one.

"In any game like this straight after the international break, there's always a heavy dose of you don't really quite know what to expect, because preparations for both teams are far from ideal."

Pearce says there is a feeling that City's frontline may be able to exploit what is expected to be a much changed Liverpool line-up, due to injuries to key players.

He continued: "If you're looking at it from Brendan Rodgers' point of view, I'm sure he believes Liverpool can be got at, because it was such a settled backline for a lot of the title-winning season.

"Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk cemented themselves as the best centre-back combination in the top flight and you probably had the two best full-backs in European football in terms of what they offer at both ends of the pitch in Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.

Joel Matip is Liverpool's only recognised senior centre half who's fit at the moment. As people will know, he's had a history of injury problems of his own, so it is a major concern.

James Pearce The Athletic

"It's just been one set back after another. It was an absolute hammer blow losing Virgil Van Dijk to a torn ACL, because he's just been there every step of the way in Liverpool's amazing resurgence under Jürgen Klopp.

"So to lose him was bad enough, but to lose Gomez as well, he's undergone surgery for tearing a tendon in his left knee, and like Van Dijk, he is facing a battle to play again this season.

"Joel Matip is Liverpool's only recognised senior centre half who's fit at the moment. As people will know, he's had a history of injury problems of his own, so it is a major concern.

"Fabinho could potentially be back. He's shown he can deputise at centre-back a few times this season. But it does probably mean that Klopp will be turning to either Rhys Williams, a teenager from the academy, or Nat Phillips, who is a few years older than Williams.

"But he's very unproven, he's only played one Premier League game and that was against West Ham a few weeks back, but I think Robertson should be okay.

"He did have a hamstring issue but he was passed fit to play for Scotland against Israel and then at right-back. That's a dilemma for Klopp as well.

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Diogo Jota
Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota has scored seven times for the club since his summer move from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

"Certainly, Trent will be out and Nico Williams is the most obvious replacement there but he took a heavy blow to the foot on Wales duty, so he's another one that Liverpool's medical staff will be having to look at.

"They will be busy between now and Sunday and you may even find someone like James Milner having to deputise at full-back."

Pearce believes Liverpool's attacking talent can combat the losses of key players at the other end of the pitch, including the summer arrival of Diogo Jota from Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Portuguese winger, who cost the Reds a reported £41M, scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 victory over Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League earlier this month. 

"That's the big thing for Liverpool, as much as the defensive problems create a headache, they've still got the firepower to beat anyone," he added.

"I think they showed that just before the last international break when they lost Van Dijk in the Merseyside derby and people wondered then whether the wheels would come off.

"And then they played seven games before the international break just gone and won five and drew two of them.

Despite only being at the club a month or two, Jota just looks so well suited to Klopp's brand of attacking football.

James Pearce The Athletic

"That was mainly down to the fact that Jota has been an absolute revelation since arriving from Wolves in the summer.

"A lot of Liverpool fans, if you were picking holes in the title-winning season, would say that maybe there was too big a drop off in quality from the front three and the back-up options when either Sadio Mané, Mo Salah or Roberto Firmino weren't out there.

"I think Klopp and Michael Edwards, the sporting director, have certainly addressed that with the signing of Jota. Despite only being at the club a month or two, he just looks so well suited to Klopp's brand of attacking football.

"Of course, Mané has been in great form as well, so that's why I think there will be goals on Sunday night, because on route to winning the title, Liverpool's style, they almost played within themselves and sometimes got ahead in games and just looked to control it.

"But I don't think they can really play that way in this moment. They have to almost go full throttle on the attack and that's likely to lead to chances at both ends."

All times GMT.

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