John Aldridge: Liverpool’s victory over Toon a Real tonic ahead of Champions League clash
Top four might still be beyond Jurgen Klopp’s men but what a way to go into crucial Euro tie
WHAT a difference a week has made in Liverpool’s strange season.
I have to be honest, it was hard to find any positives to write in my Sunday World column after the 3-0 drubbing at Wolves a couple of weeks back.
That was as bad as it has been during Jurgen Klopp’s reign – and one of the all-time great Liverpool managers confirmed as much after the game.
Yet the two games since then served up a convincing win in the derby against Everton and last night’s 2-0 win against Newcastle a St James’ Park.
No one would suggest Liverpool are back to their best ahead of the mouth-watering Champions League game against Real Madrid on Tuesday night.
But at least they are now heading into that game with some confidence and momentum behind them, which is a huge step forward.
It felt like a long way back from there, but the nine days they had between that game at Molineux and the Merseyside derby against Everton were crucial.
It’s not often in the modern game that you get that kind of extended break between matches, unless you count some clowns at FIFA arranging a World Cup in the middle of the season!
So Klopp had a chance to reset, get his own team selection right and make sure the team were ready for the derby.
It wasn’t the most flamboyant performance against Everton, but the players competed and showed some quality to get the 2-0 win.
They had leadership in the middle of the park with Jordan Henderson in there – and the midfield was strong and compact, which hasn’t been the case with Naby Keita and Thiago in there in the last few games.
The big thing for me was the togetherness of the team, above all else. The defence, midfield and attack have looked completely disjointed in recent weeks but we were unified against Everton.
The commitment and desire to fight for the right to play was there and they got their rewards.
What we saw in the big defeat at Brighton and Wolves in recent weeks was a team that didn’t compete, which is totally unacceptable when you are given the honour of wearing that Liverpool jersey.
Klopp will have delivered a few home truths to his players ahead of that Everton game and he got a response.
Anyone out there who was suggesting Klopp had lost the dressing room and his time was coming to an end at Liverpool got their response on Monday night.
Then they needed to follow it up with another positive result at Newcastle last night and they were clinical in taking first half chances to swing the game in their favour.
Newcastle are a different beast since the Saudi money was poured into the club and they are a tough nut to crack this season.
Liverpool ended Newcastle’s 17-game unbeaten run last night and while I still feel a top-four finish may be beyond Klopp’s team this season, there is no doubt this latest win was essential if they were to keep that target alive.
Newcastle would have been 12 points ahead of Liverpool today if they had won last night, but that gap is down to six now and we know this Liverpool team can put a run of wins together when they are firing.
I was delighted to see Darwin Nunez grab a great striker’s goal last night – and some of the attacking play in the early stages was too much for Newcastle to handle.
When their keeper Nick Pope was sent off after Liverpool had established a 2-0 lead, it was pretty much game over.
This ended up being the perfect warm-up game for the Real Madrid showdown and we all know what Anfield will be like for that game.
Liverpool fans eulogize about how special that stadium is under the lights on Champions League nights, but everyone confirms it has a magic all of its own.
Pep Guardiola, Lionel Messi and all the game’s modern-day greats have experienced what it is like to take on Liverpool and that choir when the stakes are high in Europe’s biggest competition – and not many of them have emerged victorious
Real Madrid have not been in the best of form of late, and they might not fancy what is coming at them.
After losing last season’s Champions League final against the same Spanish opponents, Liverpool will not need any additional motivation to get one over on Real Madrid.
What a night it should be.
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