Next Monday Night Football will pitch heavyweights and eternal rivals Manchester United and Liverpool against each other at Anfield. This cracker is keenly anticipated given how both sides have emerged possible title challengers before the season kicked off.
The hosts have been in brilliant form this term, losing just once and are 2 points behind league leaders Manchester City. Their squad is unarguably one of the best in the EPL, and are a level ahead of Manchester United’s.
There is enough depth within Liverpool’s ranks for Jurgen Klopp to pick his starting XI from and with first choice central back veteran Dejan Lovren likely to miss Monday’s clash to a groin strain, who will be called into action to replace him against the Red Devils?
Although the Croatian has started training with the first team, it is unlikely that the manager will risk his fitness in the game.
Well, the manager does have a couple of options, but Ragnar Klavan seems to be the perfect one. The Estonia international has been a Klopp favourite since his Bundesliga days at FC Augsburg, and it came as no surprise that the German tactician finally got his hands on the 30-year-old when the chance came.
Klavan has already played 4 games for the Reds this season, with 3 coming in the league against Arsenal, Burnley and Hull City, while the other came in the English Football League Cup game against Derby County. In all his EPL fixtures, the ball-playing centre-back has averaged 5 defensive actions, 92% pass accuracy, 20 meters pass length and won 63% of his duels.
Why is he the right man for the job?
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches just like Lovren, Klavan’s height means he is not at any disadvantage against Zlatan who’s just 3 inches taller. The Swede remains Manchester United most lethal goalscoring menace and has more than often used his height to bully opposition defenders.
Klavan is not just tall, he also has an incredible jump power, and that comes handy against a team like United that have Pogba, Smalling and Fellaini as aerial threats during set pieces.
His precise and seldom but clean tackling, positioning and strength will all be put to great use against the attacking threats of Manchester United’s frontline. Klavan’s Bundesliga stats with Augsburg last season quite show why the 30-year-old 3-time Estonian Footballer of the Year is up to the task.
Over a course of 31 league appearances, Klavan averaged 8 defensive actions, created 7 chances, recorded a shot and pass accuracy of 57% and 85% respectively. His discipline and fair style of play meant the often calm and collected veteran got booked only twice all season long, while he committed just 1 defensive error.
Who are the other options?
Peradventure Klopp decides against fielding Klavan or he becomes unavailable, Lucas Leiva is another option that can be considered.
The former Liverpool player of the year has featured against Leicester City and Chelsea this term at central back, and occasions like this was why Klopp kept him at the club despite many transfer rumours linking away from Anfield in the summer.
Apart from a defensive error against Leicester City that led to a goal, the Brazilian has performed well in both of his features. He has averaged 9 defensive actions and 87% pass accuracy.