KLOPP’S LAST GAME SOUVENIR

Neco’s date with Salah, “harder to beat” Forest & which Liverpool turn up?

Nottingham Forest are the clear underdogs against Liverpool this weekend and Neco Williams‘ tussle with two former teammates could prove pivotal.

The Reds have secured back-to-back 1-0 wins in the Premier League in the last five days, seeing off both Man City and West Ham at Anfield.

On Saturday lunchtime, another must-win game comes Liverpool’s way, as they make the trip to a newly-promoted Forest with a host of new signings (21!).

It may not be plain sailing for Jurgen Klopp‘s side, however, as their FA Cup clash at the City Ground last season showed.

Ahead of the match, we spoke to journalist Matt Davies (@MattDavies_NP) to hear all about Forest’s season, his assessment of Liverpool and Saturday’s meeting.

 

How happy are you with Forest’s start to the season?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 20, 2022: Nottingham Forest's Neco Williams during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s hard to be happy, but it’s also understandable that it was going to be tough given the step up in class and the number of signings.

There have been some good signs with the win against West Ham and the performance at home to Spurs, but things went pretty off the rails after losing to Man City, with poor performances against Bournemouth, Fulham and Leicester.

Since then, Nottingham Forest have looked a lot harder to beat and now need to get to the World Cup without being adrift at the bottom.

 

Was it the right call to keep hold of Steve Cooper?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 20, 2022: Nottingham Forest's manager Steve Cooper during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Nottingham Forest FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Yes, 100 percent. Given all the churn in the squad, the last thing they needed to do was get rid of the man who was the architect of promotion.

Steve Cooper has made mistakes with selection and formations, but who can blame him with so many unfamiliar players to try and make a team with.

If there was an obvious replacement out there, fans would have been more receptive to him going, but as it was, they rallied for him and there is a case to be made that fan power saved his job.

 

Have any individuals shone, or been particularly poor?

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 20, 2022: Nottingham Forest players form a pre-match huddle before the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

No individual has had a consistently outstanding season.

A few have shown good signs at different times like Dean Henderson, Lewis O’Brien and Ryan Yates, but generally, it has been a struggle.

It is fair to say Forest need to see more from Jesse Lingard, Renan Lodi, Remo Freuler and ex-Red Taiwo Awoniyi as big summer signings, but it’s early days and they deserve longer to be judged.

 

As for Liverpool, how do you assess their campaign to date?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 19, 2022: Liverpool's Darwin Núñez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’ve not seen every game, but it’s been a real mixed bag.

They looked awful against Napoli and that seemed to be a watershed as they’ve got better since then.

They appear to be in that difficult phase where top players and professionals like Jordan Henderson are starting to decline, while younger guys like Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho probably need a season or two to settle.

They were excellent against Man City, though, and gave a reminder of the class they still have.

 

Where do you think they will finish?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 19, 2022: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) embraces goalkeeper Alisson Becker after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Third.

City look like they will win the Premier League title by a big margin and Arsenal have made great strides.

Spurs, Chelsea and even Newcastle are good sides, but over the course of a season, Liverpool’s class should come through.

 

Which Reds player who you most like to have at Forest currently?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 19, 2022: Liverpool's Thiago Alcântara during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mo Salah is the obvious answer as he’s a world-class player, but I would have to say Thiago.

His value to Liverpool is most clear when he isn’t playing, and if Forest had someone of his ilk who could control a midfield, they probably wouldn’t be in the bottom three.

 

Looking ahead to Saturday, where will the key battles take place?

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 20, 2022: Nottingham Forest's Brennan Johnson during the FA Cup Quarter-Final match between Nottingham Forest FC and Liverpool FC at the City Ground. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Forest’s left-hand side is a problem with Renan Lodi injured and potentially Harry Toffolo, too.

That would mean Neco Williams would be up against old teammates Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold. The Welshman started well but has found it tough of late.

Forest’s best attacking outlet could be the pace of Brennan Johnson behind that high line.

He drifts to the right, so if Forest can get him good ball, he could trouble Andy Robertson or Kostas Tsimikas.

 

Finally, what’s your prediction?

Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Sunday October 16, 2022.

Realistically, if Liverpool perform they win comfortably, perhaps by a big margin. But they haven’t always done that though this season and Forest have looked harder to beat.

I will say 2-0 to Liverpool, and if that is the outcome and Forest play well in defeat, that is something to build on.

I wouldn’t totally rule Forest out getting a draw, though, depending on the Reds’ performance levels.