The upcoming showdown between Liverpool and Leeds United could prove crucial on far deeper a level than simply putting points on the board in the Premier League table.
This comes as two of the English top-flight’s most under-fire tacticians prepare to lock horns.
Jurgen Klopp and Jesse Marsch, of course, have seen their respective names cast into the spotlight in a major way of late, for altogether less than positive reasons.
The former, less than six months on from being pipped to the title by a solitary point, has seen his once-rampant Liverpool side look a shell of their former selves.
Injury woes have certainly not helped, with extended spells out of action for the likes of Diogo Jota, Joel Matip and Thiago Alcantara having forced Klopp into frequent and often unplanned rotation.
The fact of the matter is, though, that the German must take on his fair share of the blame for the situation on the red half of Merseyside.
Already a full 12 points adrift of table-topping Arsenal, Klopp has failed to inspire the same type of ruthlessness across his side’s ranks as proved so central to the successes of seasons gone by.
Whilst, up top, Mohamed Salah’s struggles on the domestic front can be attributed largely to a simple loss of form, the look of disinterest with which the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk have often played is indicative of a more deep-rooted problem.
Altogether questionable tactical calls have too been observed on far too frequent a basis, with the Liverpool headmaster’s in-game decision-making having left a lot to be desired.
Of course, further summer investment on the part of the powers that be at Anfield would have gone a long way towards aiding Klopp heading into the new campaign.
But, in truth, there is no excuse for a Reds outfit fresh off a trio of successive wins over Rangers, Manchester City and West Ham United to then slip to defeat at the hands of a relegation-battling Nottingham Forest.
Liverpool need to win on Saturday night. Not only to get back on track in their pursuit of a top-4 berth, but also to inspire confidence across all associated with the club that Jurgen Klopp has absolutely not lost his touch.
Naples, Italy. 7 Sep, 2022. Head Coach of Liverpool FC, Jurgen Klopp, during the UEFA Champions League match between SSC Napoli and Liverpool FC at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Credit: Franco Romano/Alamy Live News (Alamy Stock Photo)
Hopeful of throwing a spanner in such plans at Anfield, though, will be another manager in the firing line at present.
Jesse Marsch, of course, has come in for increasing criticism over the course of the last few weeks, owing to Leeds United’s alarming dip in form.
The Whites, all told, are winless in eight in the Premier League, dragged firmly back into the relegation scrap as a result.
And the finger of blame, largely, has in turn been pointed in the direction of the man on the bench at Elland Road.
Marsch was widely hailed for his efforts in guiding Leeds to safety last season, stepping into the sizeable shoes of the beloved Marcelo Bielsa with both passion and nous.
The weeks and months since, though, have seen the wheels fall completely off in west Yorkshire.
The plans of the Peacocks’ American tactician were certainly not aided by the summer departures of star performers Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha to Manchester City and Barcelona respectively.
Leicester, UK. 05th Mar, 2022. Leeds United Head Coach Jesse Marsch claps the fans after Leicester City v Leeds Utd at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England. (Alamy Stock Photo)
But suggestions that Victor Orta and co. completely failed in their task of reinvesting such funds in talent hand-picked by the club’s boss are wide of the mark, with fellow countrymen Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams amongst a crop of seven players to have linked up with Marsch’s Leeds over the course of the summer window.
Some of the blame, as is the case at Liverpool, must unquestionably be shouldered by those in a position of power at Elland Road.
However, Marsch has also struggled to get the best out of the talent that has been placed at his disposal.
Not only initial line-up calls, but also in-game substitutions, have proven nothing short of baffling at times, with the Whites’ boss’ failure to turn presentable opportunities into three-point hauls cause for deserved condemnation.
Amid Patrick Bamford’s alarming and ongoing woes in front of goal, is the impactful Joe Gelhardt not deserving of at least a chance to prove his worth, for example?
Marsch, on Friday, suggested that he has four games to turn things around, before the trust of those above him at Leeds begins to truly waver.
But, amid a run of two points secured from an available 24, could a heavy defeat on Merseyside this weekend prove the straw that breaks the camel’s back?
Many of a Leeds persuasion are certainly of the opinion that it should.