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The good, the bad & the midfield vs. Chelsea – Debating Sheffield United 0-2 Liverpool

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Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Sheffield United was met with relief by Reds supporters, who are now weighing up the midfield options against Chelsea later this week.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side knew only a win would do against the rock-bottom Blades and they duly delivered at Bramall Lane on Sunday night.

After a frustrating opening 45 minutes, Curtis Jones put Liverpool ahead with a composed finish after Trent Alexander-Arnold just managed to keep the ball in play.

The three points were sealed when Roberto Firmino‘s mishit shot deflecting in off the Sheffield United defender Kean Bryan.

The win ended the run of four consecutive league defeats and puts Liverpool right back in the top four race, especially with Man United, Leicester, Chelsea and West Ham all dropping points over the weekend.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson) to discuss a welcome win for the Reds and how the midfield could look against Chelsea.

 

The good…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: The win, the performance and a clean sheet – a richly deserved three points and the scoreline flattered the hosts.

I thought the midfield was the basis of the victory. Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago were effective, but Curtis Jones was the star of the show. The 20-year-old shone in an almost free role.

Jurgen Klopp spoke about his need to express himself more in attack and Jones really had the bit between his teeth. He popped up left, right and centrally and took his goal with aplomb.

It has been a frustrating season, but the young Scouser’s emergence has been a huge plus.

It was also great to see Naby Keita and James Milner back tonight. They’re two players that can offer a lot to the squad between now and the end of the season.

HENRY: A win! I’d forgotten what it feels like.

This was a bit of a lose-lose situation in some ways, with even a victory never being seen as an earth-shattering result against the bottom-of-the-table team, but Liverpool got the job done in a professional fashion.

As John says, Jones was superb, and Man of the Match by some distance. I think some are taking for granted how much he has come on this season.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Curtis Jones celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There was a point when playing him still felt like a risk, but he is now a genuinely reliable option who possesses more guile than some of those around him.

A word of praise for Adrian, who filled in impressively without Alisson available, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Gini Wijnaldum also stood out for me.

The return of Milner and Keita was big, too – they are very different players, but they can play starring roles between now and May, if they stay fit.

MATT: It was all as good as we can expect really wasn’t it. The scoreline, cleansheet, some confidence for certain players, and a couple of injured ones returning – all ahead of what is a huge game on Thursday.

Jones’ development this season has been highly impressive, the major positive in a season of absolute nightmares.

 

The bad…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: It’s nitpicking because he’s new, young in centre-back terms and partnered by Nat Phillips — who is also inexperienced – but Ozan Kabak needs to tone down his on-field aggression.

Being proactive can be a good trait in a defender, but he is too keen to try and win everything in a Dejan Lovren-esque manner, which can see him exposed positionally.

There’s the makings of a good player there, but for the short or medium-term, he is likely to be inconsistent.

HENRY: I totally agree that Kabak was probably Liverpool’s worst player on the night, even though he did some good things.

There is definitely a feel of Lovren about him, which is concerning, with some of those old reckless memories of ‘Degsy’ flooding back a few times at Bramall Lane.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips (R) and Ozan Kabak (L) during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kabak and Phillips looked like a new centre-back pairing who aren’t good enough at this very top level, probably because that’s exactly what they are!

I thought some of the finishing was sloppy, too – I’m looking at you, Bobby! – but it wasn’t punished because of the quality of opponent. It could have been against someone else.

MATT: Perhaps a little harsh on Kabak, but he’s certainly very raw. Hopefully (we’ve used that a lot this season), the return of Fabinho and playing alongside a senior player will see him settle and those two form a little partnership in defence.

And like Henry says, delighted for Firmino, but the shot was definitely not remotely on target and if you look it shows how bad his technique is right now. His chance early on too, any striker should expect to score that.

 

And the midfield vs. Chelsea…

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Sunday, February 28, 2021: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: Unless there are more injuries – given the way it’s going this season, you’d almost expect it – the same midfield would make sense on Thursday.

Fabinho likely returns and plays at centre-back, in order to deal with the pace of Timo Werner, and he would be the only midfield alteration I’d consider.

HENRY: I don’t think any of the trio against the Blades have done enough to justify being left out, so like John, I’m sticking with the same midfield again.

I could easily see Milner getting the nod, however, with Klopp often keen to get him on the pitch in these kind of games, especially with Jordan Henderson out injured.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 20, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara (L) and Curtis Jones before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 238th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Keita can be a good option off the bench but isn’t ready to be thrown into such a big match from the start, while I expect Fabinho to be at centre-back.

I’d go with: Alisson; Trent, Kabak (sorry, Nat), Fabinho, Robbo; Gini, Thiago, Jones; Salah, Mane, Firmino.

MATT: As the lads say, it will be Fabinho back in defence – there’s certainly an argument for Phillips to keep his place next to him but I expect it will be with Kabak.

I’m not really sure how you justify dropping any of Thiago, Gini or Jones so surely they will continue. I think Klopp has done well to manage Jones’ game-time though with lots of subs early so I’d expect Keita to replace him around the hour.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Milner start though, for the experience and leadership factor, but whoever he replaces would be harsh.

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