James Pearce has suggested that Jurgen Klopp made his biggest mistake starting Naby Keita for Liverpool’s first-leg Champions League clash against Real Madrid.
The German dropped Thiago Alcantara to the bench in a surprise team selection for the meeting with the La Liga giants, a move that didn’t pay dividends as the Guinean was pulled from the game just before the stroke of half-time.
“The biggest mistake of the lot came from the manager himself,” the Liverpool journalist wrote for The Athletic. “It was a sizeable leap of faith for a game of such magnitude given that Keita hadn’t started since the home league defeat by Fulham a month earlier and his form had been patchy throughout an injury-affected season.
“It was also a huge call to relegate Thiago to bench duty given that the Spain international lit up both legs of the Champions League last 16 triumph over RB Leipzig.
“The decision backfired badly. Klopp’s trust was misplaced and by the time he took action an inept first-half performance had left Liverpool 2-0 down and with a mountain to climb.”
Keita potentially on the way out this summer?
Keita may be one of the most frustrating players to have ever walked the turf for us; bursting with talent, often injured, and then when given the opportunity to shine in a high-profile European clash… he falters.
Make no mistake, our humbling in Madrid was far from being the sole fault of the former RB Leipzig star, though it’s a performance that will have heightened concerns over the No.8’s Liverpool future.
The 26-year-old has looked astonishing in parts this term, most notably in the 7-0 hammering of Crystal Palace in December, so it’s always difficult to rule him out entirely, but the clock is ticking for the midfielder to justify his continued stay at Anfield.