Liverpool need to leave their ego at the door when they face Wolves
TOM COLLOMOSSE: Liverpool meet Wolves for the fourth time in 53 days in an encounter they’d have relished in their prime – now it’s time for the Reds to leave their ego at the door if they are to prosper ahead of Man United’s visit
- In the FA Cup fixture at Anfield, Liverpool were fortunate to escape with a draw
- Reds sneaked home in the replay thanks to a brilliant strike from Harvey Elliott
- But in the league match at Molineux they suffered another crashing 3-0 low
Liverpool have played Wolves so often this year that they could probably do it with their eyes closed but they must stay wide awake on Wednesday to avoid another nasty shock.
The three meetings so far offer a handy summary of Liverpool’s season. Wolves are the sort of team the Reds would sweep aside comfortably in their prime but Julen Lopetegui’s men have caused them problems in all three games.
In the FA Cup fixture at Anfield, Liverpool were hugely fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw, with only a ludicrous VAR call denying Wolves a famous win. Jurgen Klopp’s men sneaked home in the replay thanks to a brilliant strike from Harvey Elliott but in the league match at Molineux they suffered another crashing low, with Wolves cruising to a 3-0 win.
There are clear lessons for Liverpool to learn from these games. The one game in which they ran hard, defended properly and fought for the cause, they emerged on top. When they played expansively and took risks, Wolves cashed in.
Playing cautiously against an opponent who – on paper at least – are inferior is not what Liverpool usually do. Yet in Klopp’s press conference after his team had won the replay at Molineux, he used the word ‘fight’ several times. The message was clear: in Liverpool’s current situation, guts trump flair.
Liverpool and Wolves will face off for the fourth time in 53 days on Wednesday night
There’s not been a lot to separate the teams – having won a game each and drawn the other
Wolves earned a replay in the FA Cup third-round tie thanks to Hwang Hee-chan’s equaliser
In the replay, this Harvey Elliott (centre) strike saw the Reds advance courtesy of a 1-0 victory
The midfielder wheels away in jubilation after his goal against Wolves in the FA Cup in January
In their league match at Molineux, Liverpool lost 3-0 at Wolves in a blow to their top-four bid
Craig Dawson (centre) celebrates after doubling Wolves’ advantage at Molineux last month
Jurgen Klopp (left) will have plenty food for thought up against Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui
In that replay, Elliott scored early and Liverpool produced a mature display thereafter. James Milner started instead of Trent Alexander-Arnold at right back and the four-man defence, also comprising Ibrahima Konate, Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas, did exactly the job required. Wolves had 58 per cent of the ball in that game – unimaginable in previous fixtures between the sides – but the plan worked perfectly for Liverpool.
They were strong and focused in central defence when Wolves crossed, and they denied them space in key areas. This will be crucial again on Wednesday, especially if Adama Traore starts for Wolves.
The winger can be a hugely frustrating player but his speed and direct style will always cause problems on the counter-attack. At Fulham in their last game, Wolves were the better side for an hour but did not capitalise on their chances and ultimately had to settle for a point.
They are not fazed by playing away from home and in players like Matheus Nunes, Ruben Neves and Pablo Sarabia, they have men used to big games in famous grounds.
But for Liverpool to prosper, perhaps it is time to leave their ego at the door. At their best, Liverpool would face Wolves at Anfield expecting to win by two or three goals. Though they would not admit, Wolves would probably arrive hoping to avoid a heavy defeat.
Those times are gone, though. A gritty win – along the lines of their Cup triumph at Molineux – would be just the job. And it may even give Liverpool the perfect platform to take on Manchester United.
Alisson Becker looks dejected after Ruben Neves scored Wolves’ third goal last month
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