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klopp dilemma Liverpool must go for broke against Man United or their whole season is in danger of imploding


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rages on the touchline after his side's defeat to Burnley

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rages on the touchline after his side's defeat to Burnley

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp rages on the touchline after his side's defeat to Burnley

THE Premier League title has now slipped out of Liverpool’s hands, so Jurgen Klopp should pick a strong team for today’s FA Cup showdown with Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The defeat against Burnley on Thursday night at Anfield was the low point in what has become an alarming slump for Liverpool – and such is the depth of the hole they are now in that I don’t see them getting out of it quickly.

You might read this and think I’m a fed-up Liverpool man giving up on the title race too early – but I just can’t see how they get back into it, given the way they are playing right now.

I suggested in my Sunday World column two months ago that Liverpool will not hang on to the Premier League trophy, unless Klopp is allowed to sign a centre-back this month – and it looks like that prediction has now become reality.

Their title challenge is not over after a month that has seen draws with West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle and Manchester United, as well as losses to Southampton and Burnley.

Yet when you look at the performances in all of those games, so many players are out of form and the team has lost its direction.

Manchester City are now strong title favourites and Manchester United will be fancying their chances of getting in the mix to lift the trophy as well.

The task for Klopp now is to work out what has gone wrong with his team and find a way to get them back on track after a slump in form that no one saw coming.

We have been used to this Liverpool team churning out results and winning matches consistently over the last three seasons, but the wheels have fallen off and Klopp has to reattach them.

The last few weeks have reminded us that even the great teams can slide out of form, with his forward line misfiring desperately.

Liverpool are not creating enough clear-cut chances at this moment and when they do get a glimpse of goal, the forwards – who have been so magnificent over the last few years – are not able to take them.

You wonder whether something has gone on in the dressing room to break the winning formula in this team, because something has gone badly wrong – and it has gone wrong very quickly in the last few weeks.

Suddenly, we are looking at all areas of the team and asking huge questions that were unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

For starters, Trent Alexander-Arnold is in the midst of the biggest dip of his young career and you wonder if he needs to be taken out of the firing line for a while to try and recover.

Then you look at central defensive issues, but it looks like the owners won’t back Klopp to sign a defender this month despite injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

The holes in defence have unsettled the whole team as midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have been used as emergency cover – and they have been badly missed in their more natural positions.

On to the midfield and the Gini Wijnaldum’s stand-off with the club over a new contract looks set to end with him leaving on a free transfer next summer, which leaves a cloud over his commitment.

Then you get to the forward line wheree Salah and Roberto Firmino, in particular, have lost their way so much that Klopp had to turn to Divock Origi for the Burnley game on Thursday evening.

Now Manchester United are on the agenda for a second Sunday in succession – and Liverpool and Klopp has to be considering refocusing his attention on the FA Cup now.

I would expect United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to rest some of his star names today ahead of their Premier League game against Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Normally, Klopp would do the same and leave Salah, Sadio Mane and a few others on the bench with an eye on the league game against Tottenham next Thursday.


A dejected  Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold after Burnley loss

A dejected Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold after Burnley loss

A dejected Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold after Burnley loss

Yet I’m not sure he can afford to do that, as the FA Cup could become important for Liverpool in the second half of a season that will focus on getting a top-four finish rather than winning the title.

So if the FA Cup wasn’t a priority for Klopp a few weeks ago, it needs to be now. And, especially, as the team lining up against Liverpool today will be the old foes, Manchester United.

Any game against United has to be taken very seriously and we might see a similar pattern to last Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Anfield when the ‘big two’ in English football meet again today.

I saw a few pundits and so-called experts suggesting United should have been more ambitious and gone for the win against Liverpool last weekend, but that was nonsense.

If United had gone toe-to-toe with Klopp’s side at Anfield, they might well have been torn apart, but they played a cautious game, tried to hit Liverpool on the break and should have won it with Paul Pogba’s big chance late on.

Solskjaer got his tactics spot on and we can expect more of the same today as United look to add to Liverpool’s increasingly painful misery.

Neco Williams could be a better option than Alexander-Arnold on current form today and I’d get Curtis Jones in midfield alongside Henderson and Wijnaldum.

I have no idea what Klopp does with his front line because Salah and Firmino are so far off their best that they don’t justify selection, so maybe he has to give Takumi Minamino and hope he gives the side some spark.

We all know how good this Liverpool team are, but they are in a bad place right now and they need to stop the rot right now or this whole season could implode on them.

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