Former Liverpool star Stan Collymore has named the Reds trio of Loris Karius, Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk as the shock key men for the club’s Champions League final clash against Real Madrid on Saturday.
Jurgen Klopp’s side have been heralded for their attacking play this season, with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane stealing the headlines from their team mates at Anfield.
However Collymore believes it is the men at the back which will decide which way the game goes, predicting that if they play at the top of their game Liverpool will edge it, but insisting sub par displays will be punished by the Spanish giants.
Writing in his column on the Mirror’s website, he said: “The most important players are going to be the goalkeeper Loris Karius and centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Dejan Lovren.
“If those three all give nine out of 10 performances in the final, then Liverpool will just edge it — 3-2 or 2-1.
“If it’s the front part of the team functioning very well and the rest not so well, it could be a field day for Ronaldo and co.”
While the Reds’ attack might have been celebrated as one of the most exciting forward lines in world football this season, Collymore makes a surprising, but very accurate, point over who are going to be the most important players on the pitch. Liverpool might have outscored the majority of their opponents on the way to the final but to be picking up the trophy they are going to have to stop Ronaldo and his team mates from finding the back of the net. On paper, the Real Madrid squad is much more balanced and offers strength at both ends of the pitch, while Liverpool’s quality lies primarily up front, with their frailties at the back on display all too often over the past 12 months. Lovren, van Dijk and Karius are in for the biggest match of the their careers, and failure to live up to expectation will inevitably mean disappointment for Klopp and his men.