Liverpool welcome bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield Town to Anfield on Friday night looking to extend their winning run to ten matches.
The Reds are unbeaten in all competitions since January and find themselves in a title challenge as well as into the semi-final of the Champions League.
On paper, the tie against the Terriers appears to be pretty straightforward. But Jurgen Klopp won’t be taking anything for granted as the Reds march on into the endgame.
Here, we take a detailed look at Friday night’s opponents.
Huddersfield just haven’t really got going this season. They’ve won on just three occasions in the Premier League and have picked up just 14 points from the 35 matches they’ve played this term.
They’ve won just once since December and have lost seven on the bounce. To make matters worse, in these seven defeats they’ve conceded 19 goals at a rate of 2.71 per game. West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City all hit the Terriers for four goals.
Jan Siewert has won just one of his 12 matches in charge, losing the other 11. Replacing David Wagner was never going to be an easy feat but fans may have expected a new manager bounce but the former Borussia Dortmund coach fell a little flat.
It’s difficult to pick out strengths for a side rooted to the bottom of the table. But Huddersfield’s press is organised and effective. They can smother teams and make it difficult to play out from the back. They win possession in the attacking third on 4.14 occasions per 90 – the sixth highest in the division- while averaging the fourth highest possession regains in the middle third (27.08).
It’s something Liverpool will have to be aware of on Friday so not to fall into pressing traps.
Huddersfield pose very little threat. Their 0.20 big chances created per 90 is the lowest in the league and it’s no surprise to see they’re the lowest scorers in the English top flight with just 20 goals. They’re underperforming their expected goals total of 31, which is also the lowest in the league this term.
They average just 10.8 shots per game – 17th in the league – with only 3.2 of those hitting the target.
Aaron Mooy is the teams best chance creator, he’s set up four big chances this season, but he’s had to settle for a place on the bench recently. Karlan Grant only joined the club in January but his four goals make him the team’s top scorer this season. It doesn’t make for easy reading.
Defensively it isn’t much better. They’ve kept just five clean sheets all season, only seven teams allow the opposition more shots on a per 90 basis and Fulham are the only side to have conceded more goals than Huddersfield’s 69.
No attacking threat and very little defensive resilience. It’s a recipe for disaster.
The midfield is already a key area. With Jordan Henderson in the form of his career, Huddersfield will want to halt the Liverpool skipper. Juninho Bacuna has been one of the standout performers for the Terriers this season and if the visitors are to smother the midfield, he’ll be Siewert’s best weapon.
The 21-year-old is an all-action midfielder who covers a lot of ground. He’s diligent defensively, as shown by his tackles and interceptions this season, and he’s progressive on the ball. He plays 1.14 key passes per 90 and 42.3 per cent of his passes go forward. While he might not see much of the ball, he is forward thinking when he does control possession.
A tempo-setter, Bacuna could be Huddersfield biggest defensive influence as well as their greatest offensive threat. The Liverpool skipper will have to be at his best to dictate proceedings as he has been recently.
The Reds have been relentless over recent weeks and don’t look like they’ll slow down anytime soon. The players selected by Huddersfield will want to make a point but they will be powerless to stop Klopp’s machine.
*Odds subject to change
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by Tom Bodell