Liverpool were drawn into a difficult Champions League group with star-riddled PSG yesterday – but Jurgen Klopp’s men will not and should not fear the French Champions.
The Reds will also come up against an unpredictable, yet tricky Napoli side and the 1991 winners of the competition, Red Star Belgrade. But, the highlight fixture of the group and, quite possibly the entire group stages, sees Liverpool take on PSG. Can you imagine it? A number of the world’s best players going head-to-head at Anfield and then again in Paris. What a treat.
Following The Reds’ incredible run to the Champions League final last season, they will certainly not fear anyone in this year’s competition. With the use of a few statistics, let’s analyse why they should back themselves to see off PSG, who certainly have to be regarded as their biggest rivals for the top spot in Group C.
How the sides matched up in the UCL last season
As Liverpool played four more games than Les Parisiens in last season’s Champions League, it is only fair to compare the two teams based on a per 90-minute metric. To do this, we shall be using Squawka’s comparison matrix.
As you can see, both sides scored a similar amount of goals. Despite PSG also having one of the best front threes in world football, in Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar, it is the Reds who were slightly more prominent in front of goal, scoring 3.45 goals per 90. That is helped by the fact that Liverpool created more chances than their French opponents, over a chance more per game, in fact. With the way the Reds play under Klopp, they will always create opportunities.
Now, the next stat is big. Liverpool, on the whole, were excellent defensively in Europe last season. Over 90 minutes, they conceded just 0.82 goals, compared to PSG’s 1.13. The Reds are going to have to be stern at the back and, with Virgin van Dijk leading the backline, they do look a much more solid outfit.
That is before we even mention the arrival of Alisson Becker who is, undoubtedly, one of the world’s best keepers. With Karius in goal last season, Liverpool had a clean sheet record of 0.55 per 90, which was still better than Les Parisiens’ 0.50. And, with a better stopper between the sticks, the Reds are surely only going to improve on that record this season.
In fairness to PSG, the stats show that they are much better passers of the ball than Liverpool, with an impressive pass completion record of 89%. Although this could cause the Reds problems, they will look to target and harass the French side’s defenders and ball-players when they are in possession, just like they did against Manchester City. Klopp will set up his team to get in the faces of Thomas Tuchel’s side and you can expect their pass completion to drop, which will impact on their overall game.
Van Dijk and Thiago Silva comparisons
There have been a few suggestions lately – albeit mostly coming from Merseyside – that Virgin Van Dijk is the best central defender in the world at the moment. Well, what better way for him to prove himself as that than facing up against one of the most potent attack’s in the world as well as one of the best centre-backs of this generation in Thiago Silva. Here we are going to use Squawka again to compare the two defenders’ stats in the competition last season, again based on a per 90 metric.
What’s that? In these key defensive attributes, Van Dijk came out on top in almost every avenue, and it’s not even close. In terms of tackles won, the Liverpool man made 1.25 successful tackles per 90, while the PSG captain made just 0.69.
You would think that if Silva won fewer tackles, then surely he claimed more successful duels in the air, right? Nope. The Dutchman trumps him on that, too. With a superb record of 72.73% aerial duels won, his record is over 10% better than that of Silva. To be clear, both players, based on those figures, would beat most people in the air – Van Dijk just has an exceptional record.
The Reds’ top centre-half clearly made more interceptions than Silva, with a record of 2.25 made per 90, compared to the Brazil captain’s 0.86. However, Les Parisiens’ stalwart at the back, does redeem himself slightly on blocks made, making 0.69 which is better than Van Dijk’s 0.50.
That reprieve didn’t last long for Silva, though, as Van Dijk blew him out of the water with clearances made per 90. The Liverpool center-half makes a whopping 6.75 clearances, while the PSG man made 4.84.
Keita and Verratti comparisons
This is going to be a key battle when the two sides come together. Naby Keita has had a positive start to his career at Anfield and Marco Verratti is one of the most coveted central midfielders in the game and he is what makes the French side tick in the middle of the park. Using Squawka’s per 90-minute metric again, we are going to compare Keita’s Champions League stats at RB Leipzig last season, to Verratti at PSG.
As previously mentioned Les Parisiens are a very good passing outfit, and Verratti is at the centre of that. It is no surprise to see him comfortably surpass Keita in terms of successful passes made, as he made 93 per 90 with a magnificent pass completion record of 92%. Keita, meanwhile, made 45 successful passes with a pass completion of 80%. There are very few players around with stats like Verratti but, if you can stop the Italian having freedom on the ball, then you will go a long way to ruffling PSG’s feathers.
However, despite the PSG midfielder’s impressive passing stats, it is Keita who actually made more key passes per 90, with a record of 1.72. Of Verratti’s 92 successful passes, he only made 0.99 that were key. The Guinean international also created more chances than Verratti, again with 1.72, while Les Parisiens’ number six created 1.28 over 90 minutes.
Both players compared here have a reputation of getting stuck in. It is the Reds midfielder who came out on top again, though, with a tackle’s won record of 2.37 per 90, beating Verratti’s 1.84. Despite the pair scoring two goals each, with Keita playing three games less than the PSG central midfielder, the Liverpool man had a better record of 0.43 goals per 90 minutes.
Salah and Neymar comparisons
The fixture will bring together two of the world’s finest attacking players in Mohammed Salah and Neymar. The Egyptian forward emerged as a Premier League star last season, while Neymar has been held in high regard for a few years now. Did Salah really just get lucky in scoring all of those goals last season? Using Squawka, let’s see how he compared offensively to Neymar in Europe’s elite competition.
Using a per 90 minutes played metric, Salah scored over a goal a game, registering ten goals on Liverpool’s road to the final. While Neymar’s record of 0.86 isn’t too bad, he falls way behind the Kop’s new hero. The Egyptian’s impressive goal ratio can be largely put down to his 73% shot accuracy, which again is better than the PSG forward’s 58% accuracy level in front of goal.
You may be thinking, “yeah, but Neymar is more creative than Salah”, and while you would be right in terms of chances created, the assists statistics do not back that up. The Brazilian has a record of 3.14 chances made, which is more than Salah’s 2.58 per 90. However, the Reds’ main man recorded 0.02 more assists than Neymar. Every little counts.
Surely Neymar, the samba footballing star, has a better take on percentage than Salah, right? Wrong. Although that is a huge part of the lively, yet slightly controversial forward’s game, the tireless Liverpool attacker has a successful take on record of over 15% higher than Neymar, registering in at 76.47% per 90 minutes. It will be intriguing to see how they match up when the two sides come together.
These two matches are sure to be colossal, exciting, exhilarating events. Two of world football’s best teams, coming together on club football’s biggest stage. But, as mentioned before and, as the stats clearly show, Liverpool have absolutely nothing to fear. The Reds not only match up across the park with Les Parisiens, on their day they can be much better.
It will be a tough test for Klopp’s side, but it will stand them in good stead as they look to go one further in the Champions League this season. With Salah firing up front and Van Dijk maintaining a tight ship at the back, Liverpool have what it takes to overcome PSG and win Group C.