Liverpool defenders Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips were doing pretty well for the Premier League side in their past couple of matches which is why Jurgen Klopp trusted them to come good against Real Madrid as well.
But, that was was not the case as Real Madrid won the first leg 3-1 and it was a few simple long balls that completely exposed the Liverpool back line. After the match, a lot of blame has been put on players like Naby Keita and Trent Alexander-Arnold for their poor performances on the night but pundit Rio Ferdinand has come out to blast the two centre-backs for their failure to do the basics right.
Ferdinand said on BT Sport, as quoted by HITC: “The two centre backs, watch them in the middle of the pitch here.
“This is definitely a tactical thing they have worked on. The two centre backs, they don’t move. They stand up and stand still when there is no pressure on the ball.
“How is that possible? Look at the difference in the positions of the back-line. That’s back to front. The two centre-backs should be here [deeper than the full-backs].
“Yes, they’re young and inexperienced defenders but they are fundamentals of a defender’s make-up.”
With Van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Matip out for long periods of time, Klopp had been juggling with a lot of central defensive pairings over the course of this season and finally Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips came him a lot of hope.
The duo put in fine performances against the likes of Wolves and Arsenal in the past few weeks but that bubble finally burst this week against Real Madrid.
With Kabak & Phillips playing at centre-back, Fabinho gets the chance of operating in defensive midfield but it will not be a total surprise to see the Brazilian back in defence for the second leg next week.
Data courtesy Whoscored.