Improve defence or forget about Europa League glory
Sakho's doping case and brittle backline may bury Pool's Europa League hopes
(Daniel Sturridge 2, Adam Lallana 30)
(Papiss Cisse 48, Jack Colback 66)
Liverpool went searching for a confidence-booster, but got a smack in the face instead.
Leading 2-0 against Newcastle United at Anfield yesterday, their old failings returned to haunt them as they allowed the Magpies to fight back for a 2-2 draw.
All the good work up front was negated by 45 minutes of chaotic defending.
It certainly doesn't bode well for their Europa League semi-final, first-leg tie against Villarreal next week.
With their top-four hopes all but gone after yesterday's draw, the Reds must win the Europa League to enter the Champions League next season through the back door.
Forget about the stunning comeback victory against Borussia Dortmund.
If Villarreal had watched the game yesterday, they must be rubbing their hands in glee.
Liverpool are still porous at the back and they are short on personnel.
Besides their defensive woes, manager Juergen Klopp has to reshuffle his pack for next Friday morning's (Singapore time) first-leg, semi-final encounter in Spain.
Key midfielder Emre Can is possibly out of the season after picking up an injury against Dortmund, and in-form striker Divock Origi joined him on the wounded list during the midweek 4-0 Merseyside Derby win.
Then came the shocking revelation yesterday that Mamadou Sakho, in the midst of his best spell at Liverpool, is embroiled in a failed drugs test and has been made unavailable for selection by the club.
Yet, it is the manner of yesterday's collapse against the Magpies that will worry Klopp more than the absence of three integral members of his squad.
Who would have predicted the 2-2 result after a first half in which the Reds deservedly took a two-goal lead?
Any feeling of nostalgia former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez might have felt on the Newcastle bench was swiftly wiped off.
It took the hosts just 68 seconds to take the lead, as striker Daniel Sturridge got them off the mark with a finely taken goal.
If Origi's aggression and industry are crucial elements of Klopp's game plan, then Sturridge's spontaneity in the penalty box provides a different - but just as important - dimension.
With his back facing Newcastle's goal, he took one deft touch to turn, then sent a diagonal shot that gave Newcastle goalkeeper Karl Darlow no chance.
Adam Lallana, enjoying a purple patch under Klopp, then showed just why Liverpool's firepower at the moment is one of the most feared in the Premiership.
From just outside the penalty box and surrounded by a sea of Newcastle defenders who demonstrated no real urgency, the former Southampton man delivered a curling shot into the top corner to give his side a 2-0 advantage.
The second half, though, was in stark contrast to the first.
Liverpool's defence, under fire only recently for losing 3-2 to Southampton after leading 2-0, will find themselves under scrutiny yet again.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet's flap at the cross that led to Papiss Cisse's 48th-minute goal further reinforced a growing belief that he isn't the Reds' long-term solution in goal.
With Newcastle back in the game, Liverpool's backline, which looked so comfortable in the opening period, began to suffer from a severe bout of nerves.
The organisation and discipline went along with their confidence.
There was a sense of inevitability when Jack Colback rifled in a deflected shot into the back of the net in the 66th minute to level the score.
From winning positions, Liverpool this season have lost 19 Premiership points - one of the worst records in the league.
It goes to show that Klopp's free-spirited football may have found its purpose at Anfield, but it still lacks the character and discipline Benitez once instilled at Liverpool.
Villarreal must surely fancy their chances of inflicting more pain on the Reds.
"I’m really pleased because of the passion and fight they showed. A draw is fine for us at the moment. It’s a bigger step because we can keep believing. Every game now for us is massive."
— Newcastle manager and former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez
"Usually we should win a game in this situation but have to accept it. It was an intensive game. Nobody understands why Newcastle are in the relegation zone."
— Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp
- Man City 4 Stoke 0
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- Aston Villa 2 Southampton 4
Daniel Sturridge has scored seven goals in seven English Premier League starts against Newcastle.