Champions League group stage recap: Liverpool respond emphatically to opening defeat
Tuesday, 21 February 2023
Beaten finalists last season, Liverpool suffered a heavy loss on Matchday 1 before showing their class to ease into the last 16.
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Liverpool looked like a side nursing a UEFA Champions League final defeat hangover when they were convincingly quelled by Napoli in their group opener but they responded like contenders for the title again this term.
Joël Matip's late winner against Ajax on Matchday 2 proved to be the turning point and the first of five consecutive, and often impressive, victories as Jürgen Klopp's team began to purr.
Campaign so far
Group A runners-up: W5 D0 L1 F17 A6
Top scorer: Mohamed Salah (7)
07/09: Napoli 4-1 Liverpool (Zieliński 5pen 47, Zambo Anguissa 31, Simeone 44; Luis Díaz 49)
13/09: Liverpool 2-1 Ajax (Salah 17, Matip 89; Kudus 27)
04/10: Liverpool 2-0 Rangers (Alexander-Arnold 7, Salah 53pen)
12/10: Rangers 1-7 Liverpool (Arfield 17; Firmino 24 55, Núñez 66, Salah 76 80 81, Elliott 87)
26/10: Ajax 0-3 Liverpool (Salah 42, Núñez 49, Elliott 52)
01/11: Liverpool 2-0 Napoli (Salah 85, Núñez 90+8)
Campaign in ten words: Back on track in Europe after false start in Naples.
UEFA.com Liverpool reporter
A resounding Matchday 1 defeat by Napoli set alarm bells ringing on Merseyside, but Liverpool went on to navigate several tricky fixtures to reach the last 16 for the sixth consecutive campaign. The Reds' passage from Group A was not as straightforward as comfortable victories against Ajax and Rangers might suggest, with Jürgen Klopp's team taking a while to hit their stride in Glasgow and Amsterdam, although a closing win against Napoli showed their enduring class. If they can become more consistent over 90 minutes, a fourth final in six seasons is by no means out of the question.
How do Liverpool play?
A combination of poor form and personnel issues forced Klopp to abandon his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation on Matchday 3 against Rangers, when the Reds lined up in a 4-2-3-1. The German's decision to experiment with different systems in subsequent games has yielded mixed results; a return to 4-3-3 may well be on the cards in the not-too-distant future, particularly once their injury problems start to ease.
Fantasy star performers
Mohamed Salah – 58 points
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 33 points
Virgil van Dijk – 32 points
In: Stefan Bajcetic*, Cody Gakpo, Kaide Gordon*, Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rhys Williams*
Out: Luke Chambers, Arthur, Calvin Ramsey
Clubs had until 24:00 CET on Thursday 2 February to register a maximum of three new eligible players prior to the knockout stage. Since 2018/19, it no longer matters whether those players have already played in the competition for another club, even for another club still in the competition.
- Salah notched the fastest hat-trick in Champions League history on Matchday 4, scoring three goals in under seven minutes in Liverpool's 7-1 triumph at Rangers.
- That was also the fourth time Liverpool had scored seven or more goals in a Champions League match.
- The Reds have scored at least twice in 11 of their last 12 Champions League group stage matches and have won their last seven home group games .