Reds legend John Aldridge is convinced his former club has two clear advantages over their title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City with each set to be a deciding factor in the months ahead.

“Liverpool have options. You look at their goal-scorers and it is across five players and that’s without Daniel Sturridge getting a run of games and scoring regularly which he’s well capable of doing. Mane is scoring goals, Firmino and Lallana, then there’s Coutinho to come back strong. If we can keep Sturridge fit and on the pitch there are plenty of options.”

Jurgen Klopp’s side have out-scored the rest of the Premier League so far despite being deprived of their two best attacking talents at different stages of the season. And it is this admirable trait of excelling even when weakened by injury that Aldridge believes might see them over the line come May.

“Other teams rely on their best players. Chelsea have a very good team but if they were without Hazard or Costa you’d like to see how they’d fare without them. The same goes for City with De Bruyne and Aguero. Liverpool have actually managed without Coutinho and Sturridge.”

Managed is an understatement. Liverpool have stylishly brushed aside most of the challenges put before them as they mount a second genuine title bid in three years. At times they have looked unstoppable and though there have been several stand-out stars Aldridge is keen to highlight one in particular.

“Lallana is starting to get the credit he deserves. People were frustrated with him when he first came. We weren’t seeing the player we’d seen at Southampton and for England. But he’s now got to grips with the size of the club and has been tremendous. He very influential and opposing sides now know if you can nullify him you’ll stop balls getting to the front three. He’s the key.”

“He has a similar gait to Peter Beardsley and both create and score a lot of goals. Beardsley was our lynchpin and now Lallana is too.”

Even with the midfielder and others chipping in regularly, much of the responsibility for scoring falls upon their most natural finisher Sturridge. How strange then that a striker who boasts a one-in-two goals ratio since his arrival at Anfield so often finds himself on the bench. Aldridge is nonplussed.

“We know he picks up too many injuries so the manager has to manage him and he’s doing that. He just needs game-time now and with the Christmas period he’ll get plenty of minutes on the pitch.”

“If they’re going for the title or top four there is just no way Sturridge will move or be allowed to in January. In the summer who knows? If he wants to keep his England place and get regular games it could happen then. But if he scores lots of goals between now and then I don’t think that will be the case.”

Another player who has a fight on his – very large – hands for a starting place is Liverpool’s young keeper Loris Karrius. The Dane’s series of high-profile mistakes in recent weeks saw him castigated from all quarters and though some of it may have been justified, the born-and-bred Scouser Aldo takes serious exception when the criticism becomes public and personal. Especially when it derives from a well-known Mancunian. 

 “People are paid good money by Sky to be controversial and if that’s what they want that’s what Gary Neville will give them. There was also the Bournemouth striker who came out and said they targeted Karius as the weakness in defence. That wasn’t good from a fellow professional. He should have kept that in-house. Karius could do without that.”
“The manager has taken him out of the firing line to regroup and when his chance comes again I’m sure he’ll take it.”

While Karius has carried the can for costly concessions at Bournemouth and a home draw to West Ham, doubts remain about Liverpool’s rear-guard with many claiming it will prove to be their undoing this term. Aldridge though insists too much has been made of an otherwise sound backline.

“There have been some hiccups but the Bournemouth game apart defensively Liverpool have been good. That’s the fifth clean sheet in the last eight which isn’t bad is it. Mignolet in goal has been a calming influence while Klavan can dominate at the back – he’s a very old-fashioned centre-back – and has been excellent. For me though Matip is possibly the signing of the summer.”

Looking ahead to January, can the former league winner – who scored an incredible 50 goals in 83 appearances for the Reds – see Klopp utilising the transfer window to strengthen his troops? Liverpool supporters who take great pride in seeing local players coming through the ranks will be pleased with his response.

“The squad is quite good to be honest because we’re not in Europe. Coutinho is coming back soon and Matip and Gomez too. Plus, the young lads have plenty of potential. The manager will know if he needs to buy one but if the right man isn’t available he’ll play the kids. Money is available but he won’t go out and buy for the sake of it.”

It’s a strategy Aldo approves of, though as a lifelong Red, if he was in charge there would be a very different policy in place.

“Personally I’d go and get Suarez.”



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