Haaland Injury Update: A Positive Sign for Liverpool’s Duo but a Dilemma for Jürgen Klopp
Erling Haaland did not participate in Manchester City’s open training session on Thursday afternoon, and he may be out of the match against Liverpool this weekend.
This weekend, Jürgen Klopp faces an almost impossible tactical challenge. The German is set to take his Liverpool team to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon, where he will have to find a way to neutralize Erling Haaland, the Premier League’s leading goalscorer by a long shot.
The Norwegian international has 28 goals in 26 appearances this season, which is quite remarkable and does not bode well for Mohamed Salah, who holds the record for most goals in a single 38-game Premier League campaign with 32. If he plays, Haaland will be the ultimate test for Liverpool’s defensive line, but that is a big if right now.
Pep Guardiola held an open training session in front of the media on Thursday afternoon, and his star striker was nowhere to be found. Haaland did not participate in team training prior to his heavyweight bout with Liverpool, making him a doubt for the weekend.
Although logic suggests Klopp would prefer Haaland not to play at the Etihad, the uncertainty surrounding his availability could prove to be a problem for the Reds manager and his planning, as the tactical make-up of the match will depend on whether he’s on the field or not.
When he’s involved, the 22-year-old brings very specific qualities. He’s 1.91m tall and quick across the ground, making him a nightmare for high defensive lines like the one used by Liverpool under Klopp, and he’s also inclined to stay away from the ball unless tasked with finishing a move with a goal.
In fact, Haaland is averaging just 24.3 touches per 90 minutes this season, putting him near the bottom of the Premier League in comparison to his peers. Only two players in the entire division average fewer touches than him: Jamie Vardy and Callum Wilson.
Julián lvarez has the lowest average number of touches of any of Guardiola’s outfielders this season, with 40.6 per 90, followed by Jack Grealish on 56.8 per 90. When Haaland is involved, the dynamic shifts dramatically, as he is essentially a passenger when Manchester City has the ball, unless they want him to score.
If the Scandinavian does not play in the high-profile match on Saturday, Klopp will have to worry about an extra player in terms of how Guardiola’s men will build offensive moves from the back, but his defense may be allowed to creep a few yards higher.
Without Haaland on the field, Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté wouldn’t have to worry as much about through balls in behind, and as a result, Klopp could instruct them to be braver when defending by occupying a higher line, simply because Grealish, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, and Kevin De Bruyne aren’t as quick.
Furthermore, Van Dijk and Konaté would not be put through as much physical testing, particularly in the air. Haaland’s replacement is likely to be much shorter in stature, making aerial crosses into the penalty box — as well as those originating from set-pieces — less dangerous.
Overall, Haaland’s inclusion for Liverpool has both advantages and disadvantages. Although it doesn’t make sense given that he has 28 goals this season, Klopp may still want the superstar striker to play in Manchester. Regardless, the Reds’ tactics must be perfect this weekend, as they will be tested more than ever.