Mamadou Sakho has massive task marking Graziano Pelle

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Since the retirement of Jamie Carragher, Liverpool have been missing a leader in defence.

Carragher's voice bellowed orders whilst he was still playing, and his loud screeches could be heard from the nearby streets around Anfield on a matchday.

Lack of leadership

For the past two seasons, there has been a distinct lack of order in the back-line.


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When Liverpool went within a whisker of winning the title the subsequent year after Carragher's retirement, defending was a calamity and 50 goals were conceded.

Last term was not much better, although the Reds did shrink their goals conceded tally by two. Prior to Brendan Rodgers losing his job this season, the same problems reoccurred.

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Rodgers did try and introduce a leader to Liverpool's defence but was unsuccessful.

He first gave the responsibility to Martin Skrtel, who probably was the Reds' best guard in the rear-line when they almost won the title. However, the Slovakian's form dipped in the last campaign and his rash decision-making lets him down far too often.

Dejan Lovren's maiden season at Anfield was nothing short of disastrous after his £20 million move from Southampton and his performances haven't improved when given another chance at the beginning of this term.

Sakho emerges

Many Kopites have always thought they've had a prime candidate to steward Liverpool's defence; Mamadou Sakho.

A regular for France when he joined for £17 million from Paris Saint-Germain in 2014, he too captained his club aged just 17.

In his first two seasons at the Merseyside outfit, Sakho was yo-yoed in and out of the team and there was speculation he would leave during the summer.

Instead, he reversed his decision and signed a new contract.

If there were any remaining doubts when he did put pen to paper to extend his time at the Reds, they will have now been firmly cast aside.

Since Jurgen Klopp took the hot-seat at Anfield last week, Sakho has looked a completely different beast.

It seems that he has been handed all responsibility by the German and is relishing the opportunity.

Klopp immediately made Mats Hummels his leader when he took charge of Borussia Dortmund in 2008 and seems repeated the trick with Sakho.

In Klopp's first match in charge against Tottenham Hotspur, Sakho performed admirably to thwart Harry Kane and co.

The Frenchman's best moment came when he cleared Deli Alli's first-half effort off the line and played a significant part in salvaging a point for the Reds.

Sakho's impressive form continued when Liverpool met Rubin Kazan in the Europa League on Thursday evening. He was the man of the match by a country mile on the night and did not put a foot wrong.

It was Sakho's heading that was most striking. He jumped like a stag from the first to the final whistle and dominated physically in the air.

Test against Pelle

The Paris-born defender will have to produce an even better performance when Liverpool meet Southampton on Sunday.

Sakho is set to have his hands full when marking Graziano Pelle.

The Italian is renowned as one of the Premier League's best target men and has been in outstanding form this term.

Pelle has been deadly in front of goal, netting nine times for club and country, with five of those coming in the Premier League.

The former Feyenoord forward is renowned for his aerial ability. He's superb when challenging for headers and Ronald Koeman's side are not afraid of using Pelle's key attribute to their advantage.

He dominated Chelsea's back-four in Southampton's 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, winning over 50% of his aerial duals (StatsZone by FourFourTwo) and also slotted home his side's third.

If Sakho is to stamp his authority on Klopp's side, thwarting Pelle would surely seal the deal.

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