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Liverpool

Could Schalke’s Benedikt Howedes prove an economical solution to Liverpool’s defensive woes?

Scott Challinor

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Benedikt Howedes

It has been apparent for some time that the Achilles’ Heel of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool has been their fragility in defence. Last season, the Reds shipped 42 goals in their 38 Premier League games, an improvement on the 50 goals they shipped in 2015/16.

However, with four goals in two matches conceded already this term, in all competitions (a 3-3 Premier League draw at Watford and a 2-1 Champions League qualifying win at Hoffenheim), and having developed what appears to be an alarming inability to defend set-pieces, it is clear that the Reds defence continues to be a hindrance to the Merseyside club’s title ambitions.

All four goals they have conceded so far have been avoidable, with individual errors culpable, an issue that must be addressed before it proves detrimental to another Liverpool season.

More worryingly for Liverpool fans, despite defence being the pressing issue in the current squad, it is a problem that Jurgen Klopp is still yet to address, and with just a fortnight left of the transfer window, time is quickly running out.

Trent Alexander-Arnold’s performance at Hoffenheim, in which he demonstrated his great ability to get forward and capped off his night with a fine free-kick, has provided some encouragement that Liverpool have some up and coming promise in the full-back areas at least.

However, at 18 years of age, he is still very much learning the defensive side of his game, having been caught noticeably out of position at Watford, and being at fault for Hoffenheim’s goal.

Klopp’s only other defensive recruit has been Hull City’s Scotland left-back Andrew Robertson, who is yet to feature with Alberto Moreno preferred in the position. Yet that still leaves the centre-back positions in urgent need of strengthening.

Under pressure to add to his defence in the waning days of the transfer window, Klopp could do worse than look to his homeland for a solution to the problem.

Reports from German newspaper Bild have suggested that Schalke’s German international centre-half, Benedikt Höwedes, is looking for a fresh challenge, and with more than enough knowledge of the Bundesliga, Klopp would do well to make an approach for the 29-year-old, who would be available for a cut-price €20 million in today’s market.

The source claims that clubs from England have already inquired about the player’s availability, and with such proven quality available at such a small price, it could be a huge opportunity missed for Liverpool if they didn’t make an approach, particularly given the player’s links to Jurgen Klopp.

He praised the former Dortmund coach when he took up the post at Liverpool back in 2015 in an interview with Bild.

A seasoned Bundesliga player with well over 200 appearances for Gelsenkirchen outfit Schalke, Höwedes has also won 44 caps for his country since 2011, including the 2014 World Cup final victory against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro. He also featured in the German U21 side that triumphed at the 2009 U21 European Championship, humbling England 4-0 in the final.

Now 29, he is very much in his prime as a defender with a wealth of experience and likely the best of his physical game still at his disposal. He has also featured in the full-back positions and as a sweeper in front of the defence, which could add some much needed versatility to Klopp’s rearguard at Anfield.

What the German may also provide to the back four is a leader figure which the club have lacked since losing the likes of Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger in recent years, a figure which compatriot Jurgen Klopp could look to build a defence around.

The opportunity of a reunion with former Schalke teammate Joel Matip at Anfield, a player with whom Höwedes will now have an innate understanding, is also a beneficial aspect to be considered. Matip is still to fully convince the Anfield faithful since his arrival from the Veltins Arena, and the presence of Höwedes in the defence alongside him may just be the key to coaxing the best form from both players.

Höwedes is well-known for his aerial presence and being comfortable with the ball at his feet and playing out from the back, and may just be the cool head Liverpool need surrounding set-piece situations at present. He also offers more consistency in performances than the erratic duo of Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren.

There would also be very little concern over Liverpool’s ability to attract the player, with the Reds on course to qualify for this season’s Champions League after an impressive victory in the away leg of their qualifying playoff round tie against Hoffenheim.

Höwedes would prove a comparatively cut-price solution to the defensive problem compared to the primary target they have been linked to over the summer, Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk.

Of course, a move for Höwedes would have no bearing on whether the club moves for the Dutchman also, but landing one or even both would signal Liverpool’s intent as title challengers, as well as adding some much needed depth to the side, with injuries proving the Reds’ undoing in last season’s title challenge; Lovren and Matip amongst the club’s defensive players to have spent extended periods on the sidelines.

For the player himself, Liverpool may well offer the next big career challenge that he is seeking, with the opportunity to play and learn under the tutelage of Jurgen Klopp, of whom he is a known admirer. It would certainly be a shrewd move for both parties, but only time will tell if the Reds opt to bring in the German.

23 year old from Stoke-on-Trent. Avid Port Vale fan. Also follow Derby County & OGC Nice closely. BA Hons Modern Languages Graduate (University of Oxford). My prior experience in Sports Journalism comes from Volleyball & Floorball, having worked on major tournaments with the CEV, FIVB, & IFF. Have been contributing pieces to The Boot Room since 2016. Views are my own.

Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk proving to be worth his price-tag, but must keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet

Liverpool’s January recruit has been in fine form since his arrival at the club.

Mathew Coull

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Liverpool take on Real Madrid this weekend in the Champions League final in a highly anticipated game in Kiev. The fixture will see Jurgen Klopp’s side hope to capture an impressive title after an enthralling run to the final in which they have played some expansive attacking football.

But to beat Real Madrid they will also have to keep Los Merengues at bay. With one of the greatest to ever play the game in Cristiano Ronaldo among their attacking options, that is no easy feat.

For Liverpool, the key man could, therefore, be the one who has proven to be a massive improvement for the side since his January arrival.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Reds paid Southampton a whopping fee of £75 million, as reported by the BBC. It was a price-tag called into question by many pundits and fans alike. However, the Dutchman has been in fine form since his arrival and added a genuine aura to the Liverpool back-line.

His aerial presence, speed and intelligence have all been demonstrated on a number of occasions as Liverpool’s defensive fragilities have been transformed since his arrival.

The impact he has had on Dejan Lovren cannot be understated. The Croatian looks to be back to something near his best since pairing with Van Dijk. His cool style on the ball and brilliant reading of the game has allowed Lovren to relax into his role and the pair make a good partnership.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Against Ronaldo, all of Van Dijk’s best attributes will be tested.

The Portuguese attacker is still lightning quick, a monster in the air and his footballing brain is often unrivalled.

If Liverpool are to keep him quiet, it will rest largely on the shoulders of their £75 million winter investment.

It is these challenges that forced Van Dijk into pushing for his Southampton departure and he must ensure he is up to it this Saturday.

If he can keep Ronaldo quiet and Liverpool win the Champions League, then that £75 million fee will no longer seem so astronomical.

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Liverpool

Liverpool target Besiktas’ Anderson Talisca would add superb attacking depth

The Brazilian has recorded 28 goal contributions in Turkey this season.

Max Cohen

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Anderson Talisca
Photo: Getty Images

After Besiktas’ 5-1 home win over Sivasspor on Saturday, manager Senol Gunes strongly hinted that star attacker Anderson Talisca would be joining Liverpool this summer.

The possible signing of the Brazilian midfielder would be a superb acquisition for Liverpool, adding depth and quality to the club’s star-studded attack.

According to FourFourTwo, the Besiktas manager confirmed Talisca would be leaving the Turkish club for the Premier League after two years on loan from Benfica.

And Gunes dropped a massive hint that put Liverpool as the possible frontrunners in attaining his signature ahead of Manchester United.

“He might be rivals with Cenk Tosun,” Gunes replied when asked about Talisca’s English destination.

Of course, former Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun plays for Everton– leading many to jump to the conclusion that Talisca is headed to Anfield instead of Old Trafford.

(Photo by Ozan Kose/Getty Images)

The signing would represent a strong statement of intent from the Reds, as Talisca has enjoyed a stunning two seasons at Besiktas and is a burgeoning attacking talent.

In 47 appearances this season, the 24-year-old was involved in an impressive 28 goals, scoring 20 and assisting eight.

And the Brazilian’s past form shows this fantastic season is not a one-off. In 2016/17, Talisca bagged 17 goals and six assists, despite only featuring 33 times in all competitions.

While some might argue that the Turkish Super Lig has a poorer defensive standard than the Premier League, Talisca has proven his worth in European competition as well. In his time at Besiktas, he has notched five Champions League goals, as well as two goals and four assists in the Europa League.

The Brazilian youth international would add impressive offensive depth for Liverpool, as the Reds look to seriously challenge for the Premier League next season.

The purchase of the prolific attacking midfielder would be an ideal first step in assembling a squad that could bring Anfield its first league trophy in over two decades.

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Champions League

Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool

The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.

Max Cohen

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Gareth Bale
Photo: Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.

That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.

Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.

Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.

In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.

This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.

The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.

The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.

Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.

But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.

Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.

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