Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock believes Fabinho’s return to midfield has been hugely beneficial for Thiago Alcantara.
The Spanish midfielder arrived with high expectations, having left Bayern Munich to sign for the Premier League giants last summer, but he has endured a tricky start to life in England.
His struggles are largely down to Liverpool’s injury woes, with a defensive crisis forcing Fabinho into central defence – which ultimately meant Thiago has been playing in an unfamiliar holding role.
But things are looking up for manager Jurgen Klopp, who has recently been able to recall Fabinho into midfield; a tactical tweak which has seemingly brought the best out of other players too.
And speaking ahead of their first-leg Champions League quarter-final showdown with Real Madrid onTuesday night, Warnock has hailed the importance of Fabinho.
Writing in his column for the BBC, he said: “As well as his own contribution, Fabinho’s presence allows Thiago a little bit of freedom to be that player in Liverpool’s midfield three who advances up the pitch. That’s a good thing for a number of reasons.
“Thiago’s a gifted passer who is willing to work without the ball, it’s just that he tackles like Paul Scholes used to – so very hit and miss.
“When he was the deepest player, the opposition were often able to get through to the defence very easily. Now, if you get past Thiago then Fabinho is waiting behind.
“So, having Fabinho is better all round for the whole team. Especially when you consider he is good enough on the ball to quickly pass through midfield and directly feed the forward players. He changes the tempo Liverpool play at too.
“A few weeks ago, if anyone analysed Liverpool, they would have seen it was easy to open them up. They were so bad because they did not have that protection in front of their defence.”
Liverpool travel to Spain on Tuesday night in fine form, having produced a superb performance to overcome Arsenal 3-0 in the Premier League last weekend.
And Warnock had a warning for Real Madrid, believing that the fallen Premier League champions pose a huge threat to their European hopes this season.
The former Reds defender added: “If Real have watched them more recently, though, they will be thinking they’ve changed. They look a different team now, one that is very difficult to break down and create chances against.
“It’s not just their results that have improved, their organisation and overall performances have been impressive too.
“That all helps to bring back their belief and build confidence and momentum within the team, and with that has come the consistency they’ve been missing for the past few months.
“Even before the Arsenal game last weekend, I bet some people were asking, ‘I wonder which Liverpool will turn up?’ With Fabinho back in midfield, however, you don’t have to ask that question anymore.”