In pictures: Porto v Liverpool
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Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will steal the headlines once again for Liverpool with their goals, but James Milner once again proved to be Jurgen Klopp’s unsung hero of the night. Heading into the season, it was clear that Liverpool were short of cover at right-back.
Neco Williams has shown glimpses that he could step into that role in the future, but he’s still relatively inexperienced at the highest level.
Trent Alexander-Arnold had a full pre-season to get fit from the injury which kept him out of the England squad for Euro 2020.
And he started the season in terrific form, looking back to his creative best in creating for Liverpool’s attacking players.
But there was always the question mark on how Liverpool would cope without Alexander-Arnold.
He was never going to play every minute of every game and others would need to provide cover.
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Joe Gomez appears to have transitioned away from being an option at right-back this season while Williams has only just recovered from an injury.
Instead, Milner has proven his versatility once again to fill in on the right side of defence.
The 35-year-old’s inclusion in any Liverpool starting line-up still splits opinion among Reds fans with some fearful Milner will be targeted by opposing sides.
But, against Porto, Milner was the one causing problems with the versatile Liverpool star finding space down the right-hand side.
And he played his role in Liverpool’s second, sending a teasing ball into Porto’s box with Mane tapping in from close range.
No player in Liverpool’s history has provided more assists in the Champions League than Milner with 12 overall, which is level with Steven Gerrard.
He may not be the kind of player who gets you out your seat, but Klopp will be thanking his lucky stars that Milner is arguably the most dependable player in his squad.
At Manchester City and Chelsea, they have certain areas where someone of Milner’s ilk would do exactly the same job.
It was Manuel Pellegrini at City back in 2015 who let Milner leave as a free agent.
Milner had won two Premier League titles with City before his departure and was a regular in the squad.
Pep Guardiola is short of options in central midfield with Ilkay Gundogan picking up an injury and Milner would have certainly been a welcome option against Paris Saint-Germain.
Chelsea meanwhile have similar issues in midfield with N’Golo Kante testing positive for COVID-19.
Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic are being relied upon on a regular basis while Saul Niguez has struggled to impress since his loan move.
Milner would be the kind of player Thomas Tuchel would no doubt love to have at his disposal at certain times in the season.
Thankfully for Klopp, Milner is still proving his critics wrong and going about his business quietly.
But his importance to this Liverpool side certainly doesn’t go unnoticed and rival bosses may well be watching with some envy.
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