EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool icon Luis Garcia on why the Merseyside derby is PERFECT timing for his old club (even after that dressing down at Villa), this new-look, high-flying Everton team and how Klopp signing Thiago was textbook Rafa Benitez
- Luis Garcia expects his former club Liverpool to bounce back from recent woes
- The reigning champions were demolished 7-2 by Aston Villa before the break
- Garcia feels Liverpool are heading into a Merseyside derby at the perfect time
- The Spaniard sees parallels between Thiago and the legendary Xabi Alonso
Luis Garcia breaks into a sheepish smile when asked about Liverpool’s shock 7-2 defeat to relegation candidates Aston Villa.
The former Spain international mirrored many fans around the world in sitting open-mouthed as Jurgen Klopp’s title-winning side were torn apart, humbled and conceded seven goals to a team who retained their top flight status by a single point last season.
‘It can happen, the competition is tougher every year and gets more difficult,’ Garcia explains to Sportsmail. ‘Every game is different and every club now wants to beat Liverpool.’
Luis Garcia feels Liverpool have a prime opportunity to bounce back from their Aston Villa thrashing in the Merseyside derby. Pictured: Garcia promoting Football for Friendship
The 42-year-old is all too happy to speak about his former club, where he is still held in high regard on the Kop and keeps up with Liverpool’s progress on a weekly basis.
‘These kind of things can happen and the most important thing I think is, as Jurgen Klopp rightly said, “how do we react from this.”
‘If in the next game the intensity is very low, if they don’t manage because their mentality is not a good one then maybe you can start getting worried about how it’s going to be in this competition but for one game after winning the first three do you worry about a bad result? No I don’t think so.’
Liverpool shocked the football world when they capitulated against Dean Smith’s Aston Villa
As is currently in-keeping with these pandemic-stricken times, Garcia sits down with Sportsmail remotely, to chat via Zoom in the wake of his joining the Football for Friendship programme in his role as a UEFA ambassador.
Garcia knows all about Liverpool, though the era in which he wore the famous red shirt stands much in contrast to that of today. Alongside Steven Gerrard and Co. Garcia was part of a side searching in vain to finally secure a league title.
Now, as champions of England once more, Liverpool are tasked with bouncing back from one of their most humiliating defeats in highly testing circumstances; a Merseyside derby against an Everton side yet to lose a game all season.
‘It’s always a special game. The city knows, the players know,’ says Garcia.
Saturday’s opponents Everton are flying after winning every single game so far this season
By signing stars like James Rodriguez, Garcia admits Everton have closed the gap to Liverpool
‘Also as a football fan it is fantastic to see how Everton is doing so well, I think Ancelotti has managed to put that team together and they are right there at the top and doing well.
‘The balance can go either way and I think that’s very good for football and the city.
‘For the past few years it has been kind of unbalanced, Liverpool have always looked a lot stronger than Everton, but right now they look good and it is a very good moment to see how this Liverpool team will now be shaping for the next few weeks.’
After spending money this summer Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti finally has a team in his own image, with particular focus placed upon his overhauled midfield with the acquisitions of James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan.
Liverpool, however, have acquired select personnel of their own. Despite ending the club’s 30-year wait for the title at a canter, Klopp delved into the market to secure the signature of one of the world’s most exciting midfielders in Thiago Alcantara.
In Thiago Alcantara, Garcia feels Liverpool have a player in the mold of Xabi Alonso once more
Alonso, like Garcia, is still revered at Anfield and remembered for a sublime passing repertoire
Garcia takes a moment of deep consideration when asked whether pass-master Thiago provides Liverpool with something they have lacked since the departure of his former team-mate and close friend Xabi Alonso.
‘He is that kind of player, yes. You see Hendo [Jordan Henderson], Fabinho, [Georginio] Wijnaldum, all these kind of players are more total players, who go up and down and can play with the ball but maybe don’t have the creativity Thiago can add with those passes between the lines.
‘There was never a missing piece for this team who have won the Premier League, but when you can lose an early game 7-2 you know you can always add something.
‘We’ve seen Thiago when he got into the game [vs Chelsea] he can add something different, a very special and very specific player.’
The former Bayern Munich and Barcelona man did indeed make an immediate impression upon his brief 45 minute debut at Stamford Bridge, breaking the all-time Premier League record for most passes competed in one half of football.
‘He thinks earlier than anybody, he comes with the philosophy of Barcelona, knowing very well what is happening around him and shaping his body in the right position and he looks ahead of the game always,’ Garcia adds.
But will the arrival of recent Champions League winner Thiago, who is set to return for the derby following a period of quarantine after contracting coronavirus, still serve to keep Liverpool’s title winners on their toes?
Garcia admits Rafa Benitez used to keep him on his toes by warning of new incoming players
Garcia was warned that Craig Bellamy (centre) was joining the club to challenge for his spot
‘Of course, and much more when you have young coaches telling you every day “listen, if you don’t push your game I’m gonna replace you and bring more players in” Garcia says.
‘That is a way Rafa [Benitez] used to work, he used to come every pre-season and say “I’m going to sign two players, Jermaine Pennant is coming and Craig Bellamy is coming.”
‘Every single year he was bringing players who were doing well at other teams.
‘But when you are at the highest level, the players you’re going to be surrounded with are also the highest level so you have to keep 100 per cent every single training because you’re going to be replaced or there will be a teenager who is going to add something different.’
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