Liverpool on brink of Champions League exit after all-star display by PSG
PARIS -- Three points on Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday evening.
1. Liverpool on the brink after PSG defeat
Liverpool must beat Napoli by at least two goals at Anfield next month to avoid Champions League elimination after Paris Saint-Germain inflicted a third Group C away defeat on last season's beaten finalists.
First-half goals from Juan Bernat and Neymar, who overtook Kaka as the highest-scoring Brazilian in the Champions League, were enough to secure victory for PSG and leave them with their destiny back in their own hands ahead of the trip to Red Star Belgrade. But Liverpool's fate is now in the balance after their miserable away form continued in the Parc des Princes.
Jurgen Klopp's team made a slow start, encouraging PSG to take control, and the hosts capitalised with Bernat opening the scoring on 14 minutes. With Neymar and Kylian Mbappe back from injury and in impressive form, PSG dominated the first half and doubled their lead when Neymar scored from close range after Edinson Cavani's shot from Mbappe's cross was blocked by goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
James Milner pulled one back for Liverpool from the penalty spot after Angel di Maria had fouled Sadio Mane, but Klopp's team could not find a second after the break with their forward line of Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino unusually ineffective.
As a result, Liverpool must now beat group leaders Napoli by a two-goal margin to make it through to the round of 16 just seven months after losing last season's Champions League final to Real Madrid in Kiev.
2. Verratti shows what Liverpool lack in midfield
Marco Verratti missed PSG's 3-2 defeat at Anfield earlier in the season as a result of a suspension carried from last season's red card against Real Madrid and his absence left a huge hole in the French champions' midfield. But in the Parc des Princes, he showed precisely why he is so important to Thomas Tuchel's team, with an outstanding performance that saw him control the game for the home side.
His recklessness reared its head again, however, with a first-half foul on Joe Gomez arguably worthy of a red card rather than the yellow that was brandished by Polish referee Szymon Marciniak. Still, with Verratti, the spiky side of his character is always going to be there, and PSG sometimes have to hope that the good side outweighs the ugly long enough for him to make the desired impact.
That happened against Liverpool, though, with the former Pescara midfielder giving a masterclass to highlight the big deficiency in Klopp's team. Where Verratti was able to pick passes and dictate the tempo for PSG, Liverpool had three almost identical players doing pretty much the same job in James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum.
Liverpool will never lack industry with that midfield three, but not one of those players is able to offer the silk and vision required at this level. It is about unlocking the door and controlling the game in the Champions League, but Liverpool don't possess a player capable of doing that.
Verratti was totally dominant.
3. Gomez exposed in full-back role
Liverpool possess two rising stars in Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold, but they have both struggled while playing at right-back in the Champions League this season. Alexander-Arnold's problems away from home in this competition against Napoli and Red Star Belgrade -- Liverpool lost both games -- prompted Klopp to deploy Gomez at right-back in the Parc des Princes.
But Gomez, who has been outstanding at centre-half this season, was given a nightmare task with both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe taking it in turns to run at him down the PSG left.
Neymar can be a frustrating performer for PSG, but he enjoyed one of his better nights on this occasion and the Brazilian was too hot for Gomez to handle. Meanwhile, Mbappe has such electric pace that he also made life a misery for the Liverpool youngster.
In different circumstances, Klopp would probably have preferred to go with Gomez alongside Virgil van Dijk in the centre of defence and Alexander-Arnold at right-back. But with Liverpool needing to tighten up at the back after those two away defeats, Dejan Lovren alongside Van Dijk must have been a better option for the Liverpool coach because it ensured that he wasn't exposing two youngsters the devastating firepower of Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani.
If Liverpool are to make it through to the round of 16, Klopp will need to find a more reliable option at full-back and he could even be forced to put James Milner in that role once again.