Firmino Is The Man To Stop If Palace Are To Frustrate The Reds

Ahead of the visit of Premier League leaders Liverpool to South London this weekend, we caught up with Tomas Nygren to find out about their season so far, thoughts on the game and more.

Q. Looking back, how do you rank last season, now that the dust has settled?

Last season was amazing. I got to watch the best Liverpool team in my lifetime as a supporter and just to be able to celebrate a victory almost every weekend was something special. We only lost one single game in the Premier League, one game! Winning the Champions League was of course the highlight of the season, with the comeback against Barcelona as the most memorable game. It was disappointing to finish second in the league, but our performances during the season was more than you could have expected.

The points we won should have been enough, but when you are up against Manchester City, you need to do more than that. In the end, it was the game that we lost at the Etihad that decided the title and that was a really close game. Even though we did no win the league, this was the best season in my lifetime as a supporter. I am a bit too young to remember the titles in the eighties so cannot compare with those seasons.

The best part of last season, apart from the Champions League title, was the feeling that we are at the top to stay. Under Brendan Rodgers my feeling was always that it was now or never, we relied heavily on a few players and we knew that they would leave us eventually. Now, Jurgen Klopp has built a strong squad of players, every one of them in our starting eleven is world class and I am not a bit nervous about players leaving.

Q. Top of the table and just beaten your nearest rival for the title – life is good, right?

It sure is, the win against City was very important in many ways. First of all, it gave us a bigger lead, but we also showed that we are the best team in the league right now. Last season we only managed to take a point of City and that time we were quite lucky, since they missed a penalty in the dying minutes of the game. To see the frustration in Pep Guardiola’s eyes was nice, it is easy to see that Klopp has got the upper hand on him now and the pressure is on them if they want a chance to retain the title. They cannot afford to drop many more points, while we can have a bad game without starting to sweat about the other teams.

Q. Despite being top of the Premier League and eight points clear, are you still looking over your backs as Liverpool fans?

We have a lot of games left to play, so I look a lot at how other teams are doing, especially City. I have never experienced a league title, but I do know what it feels like to lose a title, and that is not the a feeling you want to experience to often. So I think I will be looking over my back until I see Jordan Henderson lift the Premier League trophy. We will drop points at some time of the season, but so will the other teams. We have made great start, but there is a lot more work to be done. I will keep on celebrating every point that City drops until the end of the season.

Q. If Liverpool had an unlimited transfer budget, who would you want them to sign, excluding Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?

Well, that is a tough question! Of course, it would be interesting to see Kylian Mbappé in a Liverpool shirt, but I would not trade anyone from our starting eleven for him. We do lack cover for Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah if they get injured, but to have the worlds most expensive player as a back-up would be a bit crazy. My choice would be to buy another midfielder, since many of our midfielders are getting older. Both Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum will hit 30 next season, James Milner has just turned 33 and Adam Lallana is 31, so to add youth to the midfield would be great. Kai Havertz is only 20, has played a lot for the German national team and in the Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen. I have not seen him play a lot, but from what I have seen and heard he could well be a decent addition to the squad. Maybe also Jadon Sancho instead of Mbappé as a back-up for Mané and Salah.

Q. Did the club do the business you hoped they would in the summer?

We did not do much business, we signed a few promising youngsters and a back-up goalkeeper. I was hoping for us to sign another striker as we do not have a natural replacement if Salah or Mané get injured. I did think that Klopp would sign one since we have a lot of games to play this season. But the more I think about the transfer window, the more satisfied I get with it. Our squad is doing really well, the players seem to be close to each other and we keep getting the result we want. New players do not necessarily mean a better squad, it is hard to keep them all happy and if a player is not happy it can have a bad effect on the rest of the team. Today I look at the summer window and completely understand Klopp´s decision, but if you ask me again after a lengthy spell out for someone like Salah, I might have a different opinion.

Q. One to watch for Liverpool this season?

Fabinho. He is the latest addition to our starting eleven and he has been our best player so far this season. We have missed a defensive midfielder since Javier Mascherano left for Barcelona, both Steven Gerrard and Henderson have tried to do their best in that position but none of them had the qualities that Fabinho has. He is strong, great in the air and also really good with the ball. The spine we have now with Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino is world class and just the fact that we have not lost a league game when Fabinho has started says it all.

Q. If you could pick one Palace player to sign, who would it be and why?

I think you have many interesting players in your squad, but none of them would get into our starting line-up. If we were to sign a player from you, Wilfried Zaha would be the obvious choice. He would be a good addition to our squad, not as a starter, perhaps in a similar role as Xherdan Shaqiri was used before his injury. He is clearly talented and hard to defend against, as we have seen in many games between our teams in the past, so to have him, and not have to play against him, would be great. I also really liked Martin Kelly when he was at Liverpool, so maybe I would have him back, just for nostalgic reasons.

Q. Which Liverpool player do Palace need to keep an eye on in the game?

One of the strengths in this team is that we do not rely on the quality of one player, if you focus on stopping Salah, Mané will hurt you. If you focus on Mané, Salah will have too much space. But I think your best chance is if you try to stop Roberto Firmino from getting the ball. He is the player who links the midfield with the attack and if you you give him too much time on the ball he will create enough chances for us to win the game comfortably. Stop Firmino and try to prevent Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson from getting into space, then you have good chance of a getting a result.

Q. Perhaps you could share your views on what you expect from Palace this season?

I have not seen many Palace games this season, but from what I have seen you look as hard to beat as you have always been. Zaha can be a threat against any team and on your day you can beat anyone, as we could see last season when you won away at City. I think you will stay up, and you will be safe quite early. If you start to score more goals I think you will end up somewhere around 10th-12th. If you keep struggling in the penalty area you will be further down in the table, but you are way to good to go down.

Q. Your prediction?

It will be a tight game, as it always is at Selhurst Park, but if our players are fit after the international break we should have a good chance of leaving the game as winners. I predict a 2-1 win for us, but it will be a fight until the end and if we do not focus on the key areas we could easily drop points.

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