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exclusive Liverpool may have ended their Anfield misery but Klopp still has a lot of problems to sort out

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Trent Alexander-Arnold at the final whistle

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Trent Alexander-Arnold at the final whistle

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp congratulates Trent Alexander-Arnold at the final whistle

TRENT Alexander-Arnold’s last-minute winner against Aston Villa yesterday gave Liverpool some much needed hope – but I’m still baffled by what Jurgen Klopp’s men are serving up each week.

It looked like the same old story was about to be played out when Villa took the lead at Anfield, with Liverpool’s lacklustre performance very similar to what we saw from them as they lost six games in a row on home soil recently.

They missed chances in front of goal, gave the ball away in bad areas, looked vulnerable defensively and, once again, I was continuously scratching my head trying to work out how a team that was so good has become so average.

What they showed yesterday was some fight and a top-four finish now feels possible, which is a big improvement on where we were a few weeks ago.

While there are still big problems in that team and Klopp has a massive job on his hands to put it right, at least the Anfield misery is over for now and we can look forward to the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid dreaming the impossible might happen.

Yet, if Liverpool play as badly as they did in Madrid last week or even repeat their performance from yesterday against Villa, they will have no chance of turning around the 3-1 first leg deficit.

Strange things can happen in football and looking back to 2019, I didn’t think Liverpool had any hope of getting back into the semi-final against Barcelona after they lost 3-0 at the Nou Camp.

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Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates scoring

As we all know, that turned out to be one of the greatest comebacks in football history, but the big difference between then and now is the absence of Liverpool’s 12th man.

In normal times, I’d fancy Liverpool to beat any team in world football 2-0 under the lights at Anfield with the crowd worth at least a one-goal start, but we are not in normal times.

As I watched the Villa game yesterday and heard the players taking to each other on the pitch at an empty Anfield, it was a reminder of what we are missing right now.

Leeds beating Manchester City was another strange result in a season loaded with inexplicable stories, with the empty stands making every game feel a little like a training match.

Liverpool playing Real Madrid at the tiny Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano stadium and not their Bernabeu home last Tuesday meant it was a strange atmosphere for such a big match, and Klopp’s players didn’t play as if it was a Champions League game with so much on it.

Without captain Jordan Henderson and defensive kingpin Virgil van Dijk, there were a lack of leaders out there and, in an empty stadium, you could hear there was no one driving the team forward.

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Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips are new to the Liverpool first team, so they are quiet at the back, and the midfield doesn’t have any dominant characters without Henderson in there barking orders.

Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota are great players, but they are not what you would describe as leaders. It was one of several problems that stood out for me in a Liverpool side that will need to improve in all areas of the field if they are to have a chance to overturn their two-goal deficit against Real Madrid.

For me, a key area on Wednesday night will be in the central midfield area, and Liverpool need to do better.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were given far too much space to do what they do best, and while they are top-class players, Liverpool have to put them under more pressure than they did in the first leg.

Kroos and Modric are at the back-end of their careers and you would like to think they could have cut down their passing channels, but they had the freedom of the park in what was a woeful first-half performance from Liverpool.

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Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates with his team-mates

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates with his team-mates

Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrates with his team-mates

Klopp was right to substitute Naby Keita just before half-time, and there must be some concerns over whether he will ever hit the heights at Liverpool now, as he has thrown into too many poor displays that have overshadowed the odd decent one.

Bringing Thiago Alcantara on gave Liverpool a little more control in the midfield, and I’d expect him to start the second leg, when Klopp’s side need to come out of the blocks showing real intent.

I was so disappointed by the lack of energy in the opening half as Liverpool looked very good against Arsenal last weekend. The hope was they were getting back to their best.

Sadly, the Real Madrid display confirmed that Arsenal’s incompetence made the display at the Emirates look a little better than it was, but all is not lost yet in this strange and unpredictable season.

The priority in the second leg against Real Madrid has to be keeping a clean sheet at Anfield. While I don’t see that happening, it would offer Liverpool a pathway to the semi-finals.

Alisson was poor in Madrid, he was at fault for another goal against Aston Villa yesterday and he will need to have a worldie if the Champions League dream is to be kept alive.

Alexander-Arnold also needs to have a big night because we know Real Madrid will target him once again.

He struggled defensively once again in the Villa game yesterday, but there is no doubting his quality when he goes forward. Maybe Klopp needs to come up with a plan to protect him a little.

Henderson is very good at shoring up the midfield and ensuring the full-backs are not exposed. They miss that leadership when he is not playing.

A lot of things need to click into place for Liverpool to have a chance to bite back against Real Madrid, and some of them might not be in their own hands.

They need to keep a clean sheet and maybe even need Real Madrid to go down to 10 men to give them a realistic chance of getting back into the tie.

Do I see any of this happening for a team that has been in a slump for too long to expect them to snap out of it against one of the biggest names in world football?

Probably not, but nothing has made sense in this bizarre world over the last few months, so Liverpool fans can dare to dream another Anfield miracle might be possible.

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