Nottingham Forest have finally found some defensive resilience, conceding two goals in their last three fixtures. Saturday’s early kick-off presents a significant hurdle as they face off against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool who have won consecutive league games for the first time this season.
Have Liverpool finally turned a corner this season? Klopp’s seventh-year voodoo could finally be passing, as his side seems to have found their feet again in the Premier League. The Reds were expected to be Manchester City’s closest competitors but have spent most of this season outside of the European spaces. Now, as we make our way towards the end of October, Liverpool have ended their inconsistent run of form, beating last-season Champions and edging past a poor West Ham side. A win against Nottingham Forest will see them move into the top six, at least for a couple of hours until the 3 pm fixtures kick-off.
So far this season, we’ve seen Nottingham Forest get battered and bruised by near enough everyone they’ve faced in the league. Their past three fixtures have started to look like a turning point, however, with a change in formation and a consistent centre-back partnership allowing the Reds to register their second clean sheet of the season, whilst conceding just two goals since their miserable trip to Leicester three weeks ago.
Steve Cooper’s side have a lot of work to do if they want consecutive seasons in the top-flight but tightening up their leaky defence is a big step in the right direction. Unfortunately for the East Midlands outfit, Liverpool like primed and ready to make a charge for the top six, with summer signing Darwin Nunez finally paying dividends with some impressive performances.
WHEN & WHERE?
Where: City Ground, Nottingham.
When: 22nd October 2022.
Time: 12:30pm (BST).
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis, Timothy Wood.
Fourth official: Graham Scott.
VAR: Mike Dean.
Assistant VAR: Simon Long.
Every week there is a new addition to Nottingham Forest’s injury room. Last week, Steve Cooper announced that Moussa Niakhate was a long way off from returning to the matchday squad, with the summer signing having already been sidelined for over two months. Left-backs Harry Toffolo and Renan Lodi are both doubts for Saturday’s early kick-off, which could see ex-Liverpool man Neco Williams starting there again this weekend.
The visitors’ sluggish start to the season hasn’t been helped by their increasing number of injuries. The midtable side currently have: Arthur Melo, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate, Joel Matip, Luis Diaz and Naby Keita all out of action with long-term injuries. Having six important players all injured had forced Liverpool to chop-and-change personnel, playing players out of position and tinkering with formation, which could explain their lacklustre start to the campaign.
Everyone knows that Liverpool haven’t been firing on all cylinders yet this season. Mohamed Salah has looked a shadow of his former self, Trent Alexander-Arnold has been caught out time and time again and Virgil Van Dijk is enduring his worst season in the North-West, but the Reds by all means still have the talent to finish in the top two, they just need to find a way around their newfound issues.
As expected from a quality Liverpool famous gegenpress, the visitors will look to strangle Nottingham Forest, keep them penned in and limit and forward progression. If they are able to do it as well as they have been over the years, it could easily end up like Foret’s trip to the Etihad from last month.
From what we’ve seen of Nottingham Forest over the past couple of months, they don’t have the confidence – or the ability – to play their usual football, they now look to hoof the ball upfield, hoping someone like Brennan Johnson has the ability and composure to hold off a defender and create a chance. With the physical nature of Liverpool’s backline, the hosts won’t be able to do this, forwards will be easily beaten in the air and possession will be soon transferred back into their own half. Liverpool will chase down any ball they can to suffocate the Forest defence, forcing them to go long which is something they need to avoid at all costs.
Last season, Nottingham Forest always tried to keep the ball on the ground and use neat passes to move downfield before slipping in an attacker. The sooner they get back to a similar style of football the sooner they will see a change in results and playing against Liverpool, it could be the only way around their tough-to-beat system. The hosts will need to switch play quickly to exploit the open space left when Liverpool looks to overload, which will give them opportunities to break down the pitch.
One area where they need to look at targeting has to be the right-hand side of Liverpool’s backline. Alexander-Arnold has been poor so far this season, given his exceptionally high standards, and with the Englishman looking incapable of supporting his other defenders this has to be the biggest weak point in Klopp’s side. Morgan Gibbs-White has looked like one of Forest’s most dangerous players, with his non-stop workrate and ability to beat his man. Going up against an underperforming Alexander-Arnold could be the opportunity he needs to showcase his talent in the top flight.
Nottingham Forest – Ryan Yates
Ryan Yates has quickly established himself as Nottingham Forest’s leader on the pitch. He throws himself into challenges, put’s his head into dangerous areas and does all he can to regain possession for his side. When you have a (vice) captain who takes a boot to the face, get-up and continues to put in a man-of-the-match performance, it must do a lot to boost the confidence of the players around you. How will this push Forest on to get something out of the game? I don’t quite know, but if Liverpool looks to pen Forest in, Yates will be one of the few chasing down every pass hoping to win possession and most of his team downfield.
Liverpool – Darwin Nunez
The so-called ‘flop of the summer’ looks like he is finally adjusting to life in the English top-flight. The Uruguayan international scored his third goal of the campaign against West Ham on Wednesday night and came incredibly close to adding a second on the night. He’s not had the easiest start to his Premier League career, but Nunez has looked dangerous so far – just unlucky with a lot of his well hit efforts. It looks like things are finally falling into place for Nunez and if he starts against Nottingham Forest, he could add to his tally again against one of the league’s worst backlines. There is quite a high potential for the Uruguayan to cause of a lot of damage on Saturday afternoon.
Nottingham Forest predicted lineup vs Liverpool: Henderson, Williams, McKenna, Cook, Aurier, Mangala, Freuler, Yates, Gibbs-White, Awoniyi, Johnson.
Liverpool predicted lineup vs Nottingham Forest: Alisson, Tsimikas, Van Dijk, Gomez, Alexander-Arnold, Thiago, Fabinho, Henderson, Nunez, Firmino, Salah.