Liverpool face a nervy battle to reach the Champions League knockout stage after suffering a damaging 2-1 defeat against an impressive Paris St-Germain.
As things stand Jurgen Klopp’s side, who were beaten finalists last season, are third in Group C and need to beat first-placed Napoli at Anfield next month to progress, with the Serie A side defeating Red Star Belgrade 3-1 in the other game.
The Premier League side were outplayed for large periods of the game in Paris and James Milner’s penalty on the stroke of half-time was their only shot on target in a lacklustre showing.
By that point, they had already fallen two goals behind as Juan Bernat squeezed home the opener after Virgil van Dijk’s poor clearance, before Neymar started and finished off a swift team counter-attack to double the advantage.
PSG could have had a more comfortable scoreline in the second half but Marquinhos had a goal disallowed for offside, and the defensive midfielder also had a header kept out by Brazilian compatriot Alisson.
What do Liverpool need to progress?
Bear with me…
Complicated Champions League rules state that if teams are tied on points in the group stage, they are separated by the head-to-head record between sides.
Napoli beat Liverpool 1-0 at home in the reverse game.
If PSG beat Red Star in their final game, they will progress, meaning Liverpool need the following against Napoli:
- A 1-0 win will take them through, courtesy of a better goal difference.
- A win by two or more goals will take them through, courtesy of a better head-to-head record.
- However, a 2-1 or 3-2 win will see them GO OUT, as Napoli will have scored an away goal, so will progress on the head-to-head record.
One last chance for Liverpool
Liverpool’s all-action attacking football took them to the final in the last campaign, where they were beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid.
But this season in Europe they are yet to reach the heights of that wonderful run and are battling to remain in contention with one game left to play and avoid the ignominy of dropping into the Europa League, or getting knocked out altogether.
The five-time European champions have now suffered four losses in their past six games in the competition, and have lost all their away games in the group stage for the first time.
Mohamed Salah dragged a shot wide and Roberto Firmino headed off target in a disappointing performance, with both being kept quiet by PSG’s imperious defensive partnership of Thiago Silva and Presnel Kimpembe.
Despite the substandard showing, Liverpool’s fate remains in their own hands and they will be fancied by many to get the margin of victory they need at a boisterous Anfield on Tuesday, 11 December.
PSG finally coming of age?
Although PSG have won the Ligue 1 title for five of the last six seasons and have claimed maximum points from 14 games this term, success in the Champions League is what the French side crave the most.
Despite the vast amounts spent on player acquisitions since the Qatari takeover, they are yet to crack Europe’s premier club competition and their best showing is only reaching the quarter-finals.
But this was a complete showing in all departments by Thomas Tuchel’s side and owed much to superstar forwards Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the pair displaying mesmerising link-up play bursting with pace, energy and technical ability.
Following Bernat’s strike, which came after the usually reliable Van Dijk miscued his clearance, Neymar and Mbappe ripped Liverpool open with incisive passing play.
Alisson made a sharp save to deny Edinson Cavani, but Neymar was on hand to convert the rebound for his 14th goal of the campaign and 31st overall in the Champions League, making him the highest-scoring Brazilian in the competition.
Liverpool also found it difficult to get to grips with PSG’s midfield duo of Marco Verratti and Marquinhos – the Italian completing 90.2% of his 51 passes, while his Brazilian partner gained possession back nine times, more than any other player on the pitch, and also contributed three tackles.
The visitors may feel aggrieved that Verratti stayed on the field when he received just a yellow card in the first half for lunging in with his studs showing and catching Joe Gomez high on the shin.
More to follow.