Football

Basel v Liverpool: Six things we learned

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Liverpool's aspirations of reaching the Champions League knock-out stage were scared as they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Swiss Champions FC Basel.

Marco Streller struck in the 52nd minute, after the Reds once again failed to deal with a corner. 

It was a very under-par performance from the five time European Champions, and Brendan Rodgers' men must improve if they want to pick up three points against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

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1. Mario Balotelli needs to do more

The Italian is in the headlines again, and for the wrong reasons.

Balotelli arrived on the shores of the River Mersey for £16 million with Brendan Rodgers taking a huge risk given his reputation. 

He's pulled on a Red shirt on seven times now for his club and has netted just once. For a striker of his calibar, this is not good enough as Liverpool are in need of a goal scorer. Balotelli seems to be working much harder than he has done at his previous clubs, but that is something you expect of a top class forward who wants to win the ball back and create chances and find the net.

What is letting Balotelli down is his lack of movement off the ball. Too often he stands, waiting for the ball to come to his feet and try to go alone. Instead, he needs to aid his team-mates by creating space for them to feed him.

2. Balotelli is having a negative effect of his team-mates

Seeing the 24-year-old lose the ball too easy and not moving off the ball is promoting nothingness from both Sterling and Coutinho.

Coutinho was class for Liverpool last campaign. He would glide past defenders and link extremely well with the front three, playing cutting edge through balls to create chances.

Liverpool had the movement of Luis Suarez for the Brazilian to find last season which has unfortunately gone.

Now, I'm not comparing Balotelli to the world class of Suarez, however, one simply has to move off the ball to create chances up top. On multiple occasions, Coutinho drove at the Basel defence, looking for support from the £16 million signing, however he was forced to carrying on with running with the ball as there weren't any options.

Sterling had an off-day which happens to every top class footballer, nonetheless there were times when he had the ball on the wing and looked for a cross, yet Balotelli was not offering himself.

Honestly, I question how much the forward enjoys playing the sport. He never looks passionate, win, lose or draw and it seems football is just a sport that he is fairly good at and pays well.

Rickie Lambert must be sitting on the bench and wondering what he has done wrong not to be given the nod, given Balotelli's poor form.

When Lambert came on, you could see his passion and desire for his side and played a few nice touches during the period he was on.

3. Sink or swim for Markovic

Lazar Markovic switched Benfica from Anfield in the summer, joining the Merseyside club for a cool fee of £20 million.

Despite having arrived at Liverpool with a massive reputation he has failed to impact at the club.

What is more worrying is that he hasn't even showed any signs that he will be a success at the club. The 20-year-old is not giving Liverpool fans any indication of his previous form that aided his former side to the Europa League final.

When he has the ball out wide, the Serbian has yet to really use his pace to cause a threat at the opposition's goal and cause havoc that he is capable of.                                                                                       

When he has played in the Premier League, I've given the youngster the benefit of the doubt as he is yet to meet the physical criteria of the English game. However, European football is ten-a-penny to him and he did not perform again.

He is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch and with competition on the bench in the form of Fabio Borini and Suso, Markovic could fast find himself sitting alongside the backroom staff.

4. Alberto Moreno is massive to the side

The Spaniard was replaced by fellow countryman Jose Enrique for the game, yet the former Newcastle United man failed to impact.

Enrique was caught out ball watching far too often, allowing Mohamed Elneny to sneak behind him and cause problems for the Liverpool defence.

Going forward, however, was were Moreno was really missed.

The 22-year-old gives the Reds so much when going forward. He bombs down the left-wing, flying past Raheem Sterling to give him an option on the outside. Moreno also looks a threat when on the ball, as he drives the opposition's right-back with so much pace and power.

Enrique offered little on the attack and when he did, he was too easily caught out and did not track back quick enough.

5. A defensive coach is needed

Another game, another goal conceded from a set-piece. Brendan Rodgers can see that there is a problem, yet he continues to do nothing about the situation.

No disrespect to the Northern Irishman, but defending is not his strong point. Judging by his previous jobs and at Liverpool, he is about scoring more goals than the opposition.

There is no full-time defensive coach employed at Anfield and this needs to happen. With Balotelli causing problems up top, it is likely Rodgers is spending a lot of time to fix that.

This will, therefore, leave the back four abandoned and still not improving.

Jamie Carragher clearly points the problems out on Sky Sports when on pundit duty, and you can see how frustrating it is for him. The Liverpool legend without doubt, would re-join the club if he was approached to come in and shake things up at the back.

6. Rodgers got it wrong...again

The former Swansea City boss failed with his team selection in the 1-0 defeat. against West Ham United several weeks ago and he has repeated that.

Going to Basel was a must win game for Liverpool if they are to reach the next round of the Champions League and it meant playing his best side.

Jose Enrique has not played much football over the last 12 months due to injuries, yet Rodgers decides to fling him into the deep end, especially after Moreno has done well thus far.

Markovic clearly needs time if he is to reproduce his best form, and that means nursing him into the side off the bench.

Adam Lallana was also one of Liverpool's best players against Everton on Saturday, yet he finds himself on the bench. Granted, he is not fully fit after missing pre-season, yet he should have been starting. The former Southampton man will only find match fitness by playing regularly, even if he featured for 60 minutes or so.

Rodgers also left his substitutes too late. Lallana came on in the 70th minute, almost 20 minutes after Basel took the lead. You could see within a short period after the home side took the lead, Liverpool were doing nothing different and if they wanted something out of the game, changes needed to happen.

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Premier League
Mario Balotelli
Liverpool
Football

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