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Merson baffled by Klopp treatment of Thiago ahead of Liverpool clash with Real Madrid

Arsenal title winner Paul Merson was baffled by Thiago Alcantara's benching for Liverpool's defeat at Real Madrid last week.

Thiago made way for the inclusion of Naby Keita, despite an excellent performance alongside Fabinho against Arsenal in the game before the first-leg of the last-eight tie.

Ahead of tonight's return-leg at Anfield, Merson said: “I was shocked last week that Thiago Alcantara did not play, I thought that was what he was brought in for.

“They won the league without him, so what was the point of bringing him in? That is his game, it is open and everybody gets on the ball and passes it - and he keeps the ball and is very composed on it.

“I literally thought he [Klopp] had brought him in for those occasions, they have not brought him in to win the league."

Before Merson added: “I watched Liverpool against Aston Villa on Saturday and I was shocked, it just did not have that connection, the spark was not there.

“If the crowd was there on Wednesday night and they were chasing down Real Madrid, I'm all over them, there is no place like Anfield or Celtic Park on a Champions League night and I have seen them turn it around against better teams than this.

“But with no-one there, I just cannot see it as having no crowds at Anfield has not helped Liverpool at all.

“It was hard for them [centre-backs Ozan Kabak and Nat Phillips] in the first leg, they are two youngsters, one lad is from Schalke, the other lad Phillips has come in and it is hard for them.

“I would have tried to mix it up a bit and play three at the back, I've said it before, to give them more protection, with Fabinho in the middle, but the horse has bolted now and you need to get forwards on the pitch."

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