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Liverpool analysis – Thiago Alcantara remarkable truth emerges as Curtis Jones theories rubbished

Thiago sends Chelsea message

There was a point during the spluttering early stages of his L iverpool career when merely seeing Thiago Alcantara fit and available was considered a significant bonus.

So for the Spaniard to reach 50 appearances for the Reds, as he did so here in conducting the romp against Leeds United, underlined how he has long banished any lingering doubts over his suitability to prosper under Jurgen Klopp.

The best players always find a way. But rather than reshape his natural game, Thiago has found Liverpool gradually tweaking their overall style to optimize the Spaniard’s contribution.

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Key to that has been his partnership with Fabinho, the duo still yet to finish on a losing side in which they’ve been paired in midfield.

Then there is the remarkable statistic Liverpool have won each of the last 17 games in which Thiago has started and haven’t lost since the 1-0 home defeat to Chelsea almost 12 months ago.

Of course, it was against the Londoners the Spaniard made his debut in September 2020 during an impressive second-half cameo the promise of which was then halted by his injury against Everton.

Much has happened since then. And having reached a half-century, it would be a surprise if Thiago doesn’t make appearance number 51 at Wembley on Sunday. He is a man in shape.

Jones makes statement

It has been a curious 2022 for Curtis Jones.

Having brought in the New Year by making his long-awaited return from an eye injury with a late cameo at Chelsea, the 21-year-old then appeared in the next seven games including a stellar showing in the Carabao Cup semi-final win at Arsenal.

But after being hooked before the hour in the win over Leicester City, Jones failed to make even the bench in the next three games.

Underlining the intense competition for places in midfield? Most definitely. But it didn’t stop the conspiracy theorists pondering whether there was another reason for the oversight.

What’s clear, though, is when the opportunities present themselves, Jones would be wise to grab them with both hands.

Thankfully, he did so here, although it didn’t start well with the youngster uncertain in possession and strangely lacking in confidence, prompting agitation from the crowd.

But the longer the game progressed, so too did the youngster, his self-belief blossoming as his natural flamboyance began to shine through, fan ire transformed into appreciation.

Indeed, this was a timely reminder Jones still has a big part to play for Liverpool – this season and beyond.

Man City given title warning

Only something special could overshadow both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scoring a brace each.

But Joel Matip delivered. And then some.

On a night in which there was plenty to celebrate, nothing was enjoyed quite as much as one of the Cameroonian’s regular sloping adventures deep into enemy territory finally being rewarded with a goal, finishing with aplomb after a one-two with Salah.

The 17th different league goalscorer this season, it meant Liverpool equaled a club record.

While both centre-backs found the target – Virgil van Dijk powering in an injury-time header for the sixth – just as pleasing for Klopp was a seventh clean sheet in 10 games, a period during which Liverpool haven’t conceded a goal before half helped – time.

Van Dijk has now equaled the Premier League record – 59 matches – of most games unbeaten at home with one club, while the Reds, with 12 games remaining, have already scored more top-flight goals this season than the whole of the last campaign.

Plenty, then, for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City to absorb as what was in danger of becoming a procession has emphatically turned into another proper scrap between the country’s best two teams.

Liverpool, though, now only have eyes on Chelsea. Wembley awaits – and on this evidence, the Reds are ready. Bring it on.

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