James Pearce: Liverpool star made Thiago look 'so much better' vs Leipzig

Liverpool midfielder Thiago

Liverpool correspondent James Pearce believes Fabinho's return to the Reds' midfield on Wednesday night allowed teammate Thiago to look "so much better" against RB Leipzig.

Due to a defensive injury crisis this season, Fabinho, whose current market value stands at £54m, has mainly filled in as an emergency centre-back.

That changed in his latest outing, though, as he started in his more familiar holding midfield role for the first time since October. The move certainly worked.

Holding a 2-0 advantage from the first leg, Liverpool comfortably saw out the tie, with second half goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane sealing a 4-0 aggregate win to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Reflecting on a positive evening for the Merseyside club, Pearce claimed that Fabinho's positional switch allowed his fellow midfielder Thiago to show his true qualities after a slow start to life at Anfield.

"Thiago looked so much better having Fabinho for company. Leipzig's high line certainly helped Liverpool tonight but still a lot more fluency to their play," he said in The Athletic's discussion thread.

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Fabinho slotted back into Liverpool's midfield seamlessly. After having to provide defensive cover in recent months, he may have been forgiven for looking a little rusty in the middle of the park. Instead, he was straight into the thick of the action.

The Brazilian's positional play was particularly eye-catching. Despite controlling most of the match, Leipzig did have opportunities to attack Jurgen Klopp's fragile back four. Fabinho snuffed out the danger exceptionally well.

He made three interceptions in the game - the joint-most for his team alongside Salah. His appetite to break up the play appeared to rub off on Thiago.

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Known largely as a creative midfielder, Thiago was not afraid to carry out his defensive duties for the side. He made six tackles on the night - no other Liverpool player made more than three.

Meanwhile, his tally of 55 touches was only bettered by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Nathaniel Phillips, showing that he was heavily involved from the outset.

His all-action display in the middle of the park did not go unnoticed as he was handed a game rating of 7.61. Only Salah received a higher mark.

Liverpool have had issues all over the pitch in 2021, struggling for goals and conceding far too many chances to the opposition. With Fabinho in midfield, they looked like the well-oiled machine that they used to be. The club's supporters will hope that he stays there for the remainder of the season.

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