In the opening matchday for the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool hosted Paris Saint-Germain in a Group C clash. Both teams find themselves in a group along with Napoli and Red Star Belgrade as they fight to qualify for the round of 16. Liverpool and PSG are teams that will target European glory, so this game was seen as a way to gauge what level both sides were at. The road to a UCL title isn’t easy by any means, but topping the group can be essential to avoiding an early elimination, giving the match extra importance.
Beginning with the starting lineups, both teams put out team sheets with interesting selections. The Merseyside club couldn’t begin their usual center forward Roberto Firmino due to an eye injury as he started on the bench. Maybe it wasn’t a shock to some, but I had expected Xherdan Shaqiri to start and have him, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah switch positions in the front three throughout the match. However, that wasn’t the case because Daniel Sturridge was chosen to start as the center forward in a like for like switch with Firmino. Considering his lack of playing time resulting from his injury struggles, it seemed reasonable to believe he wouldn’t start such a big game and yet he did.
This decision could potentially aggravate a possible issue in the dressing room as Shaqiri has recently expressed his concern with his amount of playing time. With a player in the front three not starting due to injury, he may have expected to be chosen to start and must have been disappointed to once begin a game on the bench. He came on in the 85th minute, but considering his self-belief, he may feel he deserves a more prominent role in the team and that could escalate into a real issue.
Looking at PSG, a surprise in their lineup was Marquinhos starting in midfield instead of his usual center back position. Instead, Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe started at the back. The center back partnership isn’t a shock, but if Marquinhos was going to play it would be assumed Kimpembe would be left out rather than the Brazilian playing in midfield. This was probably move to compensate for the suspended Marco Verratti who was sorely missed in the midfield.
The match ended 3-2 for Liverpool and they will take many positives from their opening game in Europe. One being the contribution of Sturridge who scored their first goal. The striker has had many fitness issues as mentioned previously and if he can build on these performances, he can be a great player to have on the bench whenever there is an injury to the front three or when the team is in need of a goal off the bench.
In addition, this result will give Liverpool even more confidence than they had coming into the game. They won all their competitive games so far this season, winning all five of their Premier League fixtures so far, so a win against debatably one of the UCL favorites is a testament to how good the team is. Plus, it serves as a statement of intent to the rest of Europe and it shows last season’s run to the final was no fluke.
For PSG a concern would be their inability to keep the ball in the second half. There were phases in the game where Liverpool’s pressing was just too much for the French giants and they just couldn’t take care of possession enough. Although not many teams press like Liverpool, it will be a concern moving forward and other teams may attempt to use that tactic against them if they don’t learn to either play out of the press or play long when necessary.