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exclusive Liverpool must remind themselves of what it feels like to win trophies ahead of Man Utd clash

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Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against Aston Villa

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against Aston Villa

Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates with his team-mates after scoring against Aston Villa

THERE are several reasons why Liverpool are rocking on the ropes right now and next Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United will be the perfect chance for them to come out swinging.

The 1-0 defeat at Southampton last Monday was the latest below-par performance from a team of champions who have achieved it all over the last couple of years.

And therein lies the first of their problems right now.

When you achieve everything you dream about in your profession, starting again and striving to repeat that success is never easy.

We have seen so many sporting greats struggling to maintain their levels of excellence once they reach the top and maybe that is a factor for Liverpool right now.

This team won the Champions League, the FIFA World Club Cup and the Premier League in a wonderful year and it would be understandable for some of the players to sit back and think they have achieved everything they need.

I don’t think Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and this great team he has assembled are satisfied with what they have accomplished.

Yet subconsciously, some of the drive that was there to win all those trophies for the first time may now be lacking.

The challenge for the group collectively is to spend the days ahead of the Manchester United game at Anfield next Sunday reminding themselves of what it feels like to win trophies.

The legendary teams and the greatest players are remembered because they win and they win and then they win again.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after the victory over Aston Villa

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after the victory over Aston Villa

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp after the victory over Aston Villa

Now we need to see that kind of attitude from this Liverpool team, but some serious questions are being asked of them and they need to find the answers.

Mohamed Salah’s recent performances highlight my point, as there is clearly something not quite right with one of Liverpool’s primary match-winners right now.

Whether he has had his head turned by the prospect of a transfer next summer or there has been some kind of fall-out behind the scenes, Salah is not showing the same levels of energy and desire that made him great and it is a massive concern for Klopp.

The second issue I would highlight is the approach opposing teams are now adopting when they play Liverpool is proving to be effective.

The Sam Allardyce blueprint of getting 10 men behind the ball at all times, cutting down space and trying to stop Liverpool play is pretty basic stuff, but it’s working.

Even against Aston Villa’s team of kids in the FA Cup third-round tie on Friday night, they got enough people behind the ball to make it difficult for Liverpool and you could see frustration creeping into Klopp’s team.

The dynamism and guile Liverpool showed as they blew teams away over the last couple of seasons has been lacking, as they have become a little too predictable.

Thiago Alcantara’s return to the midfield could help to give them that spark, as he is a class act who can open doors with his passing and intelligence.

Yet Salah and Sadio Mane need to rediscover their best form and take the chances coming their way, as goalkeepers are not being made to work enough against Liverpool right now and this has been an ongoing theme.

We have all been talking about Liverpool’s centre-back issue for some time and while I still believe they need to sign a defender this month, other issues are now emerging in the team.

Klopp played Jordan Henderson in defence at Southampton, but that’s not the answer either short or long term and the manager knows it.

Jordan is not a defender and he is also missed in midfield, where he drives the team forward as he leads by example.

The third issue here is the absence of fans and while everyone is in the same boat here, this issue may be hurting Liverpool more than other teams.

If Anfield was full for the United game, with The Kop in full voice and the hairs on the back of the neck standing up for all present, I’d back Liverpool’s players to rise to the challenge and perform at their best.

In an empty stadium where players can hear nothing but their own voices, the edge Liverpool get from their home choir is sorely missed, both in terms of intimidating the opposition and lifting Klopp’s players.

Liverpool probably wouldn’t have beaten Barcelona in the famous Champions League semi-final of 2019 without the fans and that has been the story time and again down the years.

To their credit, Liverpool have done well at Anfield as despite the empty stands, they have managed to win seven out of eight games on home soil this season.

Yet the draw against West Bromwich Albion followed by the stalemate at Newcastle and the defeat at Southampton are not the results of a team ready to win the Premier League title again.

Things could get very difficult for Liverpool from this point forward unless they get back into top gear quickly and there would be no better moment to do that than against United next Sunday.

Klopp now has a full week to get his players ready, to iron out the problems that have surfaced and then they need to send out a message that they are not about to fall off their perch after just one season as champions.

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