Klopp/Wilder beef, 'cauldron' Bramall Lane and Rhian Brewster wish: The inside track on Liverpool ahead of Sheffield United clash

Sheffield United will look to upset the odds tomorrow and possibly inspire a late-season survival bid with a result against the reigning champions Liverpool at Bramall Lane.

Saturday, 27th February 2021, 12:00 pm

The Blades go into the game bottom of the Premier League table, but Liverpool’s aura of invincibility has slipped of late as well and the Blades may feel they can cause Jurgen Klopp’s depleted side something of an upset in South Yorkshire.

We spoke to Henry Jackson, of Liverpool site This is Anfield, to get the inside track on the opposition ahead of the Sunday evening clash.

Liverpool are a fair way below the levels they set for themselves last season, can you pinpoint what's gone wrong?

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To put it bluntly: injuries. They have destroyed our season. I know everyone else is tired of Liverpool fans moaning about them but this is an unprecedented situation that has eventually ground the Reds down.

Virgil van Dijk's injury was obviously the big one - he is the best centre-back in the world, in my opinion - but also losing Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to season-ending problems is beyond belief.

Add to that new signings Thiago and Diogo Jota missing three months apiece, and the likes of Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Xherdan Shaqiri being out, too, and you get my drift!

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool and Oli McBurnie of Sheffield Utd - Simon Bellis/Sportimage

VAR has also been frankly laughable against us, with Liverpool officially the most negatively affected by it this season, and an impacted squad has led to individuals being overplayed and now falling off a cliff.

With everyone fit, I fully believe we'd be top of the league again, but everything that could've gone wrong, has gone wrong. That's life.

We know how fickle football can be... Are there any rumblings about Jurgen Klopp's future?

Anyone who honesty thinks Jurgen Klopp needs to have a look at themselves in the mirror. He is as safe as a manager could possibly be.

Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp and Sheffield United's Chris Wilder at Anfield earlier this season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

This has been a dreadful run and he hasn't been completely blameless with some slightly questionable tactics and substitutions, but he and Pep Guardiola are still easily the best in the business.

It's reached a point where even Klopp seems powerless to do anything about the injuries, and losing his mother may also have impact on his focus, even though he would never admit that.

He's going nowhere, for the time being at least.

There seemed to be something of a respect from Liverpool towards United last season after their impressive first season back in the PL, has that evaporated with United's results and also the strange debate between the two managers over the five-subs rule?

From my perspective, no. I don't agree with the way Chris Wilder has acted towards Klopp, but that may simply be bias coming into play, with Blades supporters no doubt thinking the opposite. I think that's the general feeling, too, although Wilder has certainly irritated a fair few.

I feel for you this season because you've been affected by injuries like Liverpool have, and your resources aren't as great, making it arguably even more problematic.

Bramall Lane, like Anfield, is also a cauldron of an atmosphere on its day, and having no supporters in the ground has made it a far less intimidating place to visit.

I respect what Wilder has done, and continues to do - and the way the Blades try to play - but sadly you're heading back to the Championship, without question.

Are you surprised, from afar, to see how Rhian Brewster seems to have struggled since his big-money move? How good could he be in the Championship next season, from what you know of him?

I really feel sorry for Rhian Brewster, who seems to have arrived at exactly the wrong time, just as injuries happened and confidence within the team seemed to evaporate.

I really liked him when he was at Liverpool and backed him to make the grade at Anfield, but he had three world-class forwards in front of him and wasn't the same after a year out with knee and ankle injuries.

The Championship could be great for Brewster, at a time when he just needs to start scoring goals again. He could really flourish there, with the drop in the standard of defending absolutely huge.

Once he scores a few, they will flow.

Who will be Liverpool's key man on Sunday?

Mohamed Salah.

He hasn't always been perfect this season, but he has 24 goals, is the top scorer in the Premier League and continues to be the benchmark for every other forward in the decision.

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have dropped off hugely - Mane in the last few months, Firmino for about a year now - but Salah just produces relentlessly, even when he has an off day.

With your current run of form, how do you see the game going?

This definitely feels like a sticky game, given the way things are going. I'm mightily relieved there are no fans there, because that would make it far harder.

The games in which Liverpool struggle most are the ones where they dominate possession and teams hit them on the counter-attack - something I fully expect the Blades to do on Sunday.

United play with lots of heart, even though the league table may not show that, so I am fully expecting this to be another awkward evening at the office, especially with Wilder no doubt keen to get the better of Klopp.

Where do you see the key battles taking place?

Realistically, our front-three clicking as a unit is likely to hold the key at Bramall Lane - if they spring into life at once, Liverpool should be far too strong.

Getting good supply to them is key, though, meaning Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson will be vital. Your full-backs and wingers keeping them quiet, and making them think about defending, is key.

Thiago is due a good game after a dip in recent weeks, so Wilder should keep someone as close to him as possible, not allowing him to dictate the midfield battle and run the show with acres of space. You'll know who the ideal man to do that job is more than me!

Brewster or David McGoldrick may fancy their chances against a makeshift Liverpool defence that not only has its three best options absent, but also possibly the two midfielders who were filling in there! Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies could be paired with one another for the first time, depending on Fabinho's availability, which is a worry.

What’s your score prediction?

I would be very surprised if it's a thrashing. I will go 2-1 to Liverpool and Brewster to score, which will sum up our season in a lot of ways.