This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Liverpool etched their way to the top of Group E on Tuesday night with a 2-1 win at home to KRC Genk, as goals from Georginio Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ensured Anfield witnessed another win in the Champions League.
The night’s headlines were easily grabbed by the goalscoring exploits of Wijnaldum and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the performance of Naby Keita if anything overshadowed the efforts of his Dutch midfield teammate.
Keita has far from flourished at Anfield since moving to England from RB Leipzig, as injuries kept the Guinea international on the sidelines far more often than he and Liverpool would have liked last season.
He is starting to find some fitness again, though, having faced Arsenal in the Carabao Cup and being tasked with a starting call-up to face Genk on Tuesday night in a midfield line with Wijnaldum and Fabinho – it was just his fourth start of the campaign in all competitions.
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Wijnaldum opened the scoring for the Reds in the 14th-minute, but beyond his strike, spent the half on the periphery of the action. Two of his three successful dribbles, for example, came in the opening six minutes, before having a 70 minute wait for his final burst through of the day.
The Dutchman also scored with his only shot of the first-half, and did not record any attempted tackles or interceptions, per WhoScored data.
Keita, though, was often a driving force for Liverpool and it was his run which inspired Wijnaldum’s goal, before he went on to record another trio of successful runs.
The 30-cap international also penned three successful tackles and hit a total of five shots, although three were blocked as he displayed signs of his form coming back to him with a solid display in UEFA’s premier club competition.
With Liverpool facing a top of the table showdown with Manchester City at the weekend, Keita’s European exploits are unlikely to return a start for the midfielder in the Premier League, as he needs to demonstrate that his fitness levels are at the required level for head coach Jurgen Klopp.
Only when the 24-year-old has shown he that can be trusted to play a regular role in the German’s plans will he be a name hard to remove from the starting line-up, which Wijnaldum currently has his towel down on.
The former Newcastle United man has started all of the Reds’ 11 top-flight encounters this term, along with two of their four Champions League Group Stage ties.