Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 February 2020

Liverpool hope to put the brakes on turbo-charged Wolves winger Adama Traore

Manager Klopp described the Spaniard as 'really dangerous' and 'a big, big talent', ahead of Premier League match on Thursday

Wolves winger Adama Traore, left, holds off defender Trent Alexander-Arnold during Liverpool's 1-0 Premier League win at Anfield in December. AFP
Wolves winger Adama Traore, left, holds off defender Trent Alexander-Arnold during Liverpool's 1-0 Premier League win at Anfield in December. AFP

Pep Guardiola was in a light-hearted mood. Kick-off at Molineux was approaching and the Manchester City manager was asked how he would stop Wolves’ turbo-charged terror Adama Traore. “Motorcycle,” he replied.

It might have come in handy. A couple of hours later, the explosive Traore had scored one goal and set up another. City’s 10 men had lost 3-2.

A winger who can seem unstoppable had become only the second player, after Eden Hazard, to score in home-and-away league wins over a Guardiola side in the same season. Three of his four league goals this season have come against City. The fourth was against the Champions League finalists, Tottenham Hotspur.

So when the Champions League winners start to close in on an undefeated Premier League campaign, Traore represents one of the greatest threats to Liverpool’s incipient invincibility on Thursday.

Wolves’ 18 months as a top-flight team have brought victories over Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester United and City, even if the Merseysiders’ Molineux setback did come in last season’s FA Cup.

“They ask a lot of footwork, they run a lot,” said Jurgen Klopp yesterday. “You can't play 50-60 percent basis against Wolves, absolutely no chance.”

Liverpool were spared trial by Traore for the first hour of their 1-0 win at Anfield last month, with the Spaniard only a substitute before being unleashed in a second half where Wolves were the superior side.

Klopp may have been relieved he began on the bench. He is an admirer of Traore. “He is really dangerous,” the Liverpool manager said last month. “In a big space, [Leicester’s] Jamie Vardy is difficult to defend, but I would say Traore is even more difficult to defend because his speed is exceptional. He is a big, big talent.”

Klopp argued Traore had required the right manager. “At Middlesbrough he was exceptional, but somebody had to give him the right information,” he said.

Tony Pulis used to micromanage Traore, deploying him on whichever flank was nearest the dugout so he could impart instructions. Nuno Espirito Santo has made him more productive.

With every passing week, it seems likelier that something spectacular will be needed to halt Liverpool. If Traore’s blend of pace and skill means he can produce that – and Wilfried Zaha, another with those characteristics, almost engineered an upset when Crystal Palace lost 4-3 at Anfield last season – so can Wolves’ capacity to mount comebacks.

In the last month alone, they have turned two-goal deficits into wins against first City and then an in-form Southampton.

They have a league-high 18 points from losing positions this season. Normally when a Liverpool team with seven consecutive clean sheets score first, a game is almost over. Not on this occasion, perhaps. “They give everyone a big test,” said Virgil van Dijk.

The Dutchman and that iron rearguard will have more protection soon. Fabinho’s comeback came as a substitute in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Manchester United.

“Sensationally good to have Fabinho back,” Klopp said. “How close [is he] to starting? I don't know. He needs to find his rhythm step by step and we will see.”

Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip have also returned to training. “It is the best news you can get that we have those boys back,” Klopp said. “We played the toughest part of the season with two centre-halves.”

James Milner, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri remain sidelined, though not for long and Liverpool have rejected offers from Roma and Sevilla for the Swiss winger. “In the majority of December we had the bench full of kids so how can we think of selling anyone?” Klopp asked.

But then match-winning wingers can attract attention. Traore’s breakthrough season has prompted suggestions he is on the radar of the elite. "Why not? If Barca comes, I would consider it," the former Barcelona player told Spanish radio station El Larguero.

“And if Real Madrid comes, I would consider it the same.” Music to the ears of Premier League defenders, perhaps, who may no longer need a motorcycle licence.

Updated: January 22, 2020 07:06 PM

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