With Martin Skrtel not yet fit, Liverpool's back line again writes itself for tomorrow's Champions League return against Ludogorets. That will mean another start for Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho, and Liverpool's expensive summer signing is looking to bounce back from a sub-par performance against Aston Villa and show what he can do in Europe.
"We want success in the Champions League," said Lovren at the pre-match press conference. "I wouldn't say we have an easy group, but I'm sure it's one we can get out of. The important thing is to win the first game. After that it is easier if you start the Champions League with three points, and if we can pass through the group then afterwards we will see what can happen."
Despite being brought in to lead a back line that at times last season seemed in desperate need of a vocal anchor, Lovren's positional play and leadership has been questionable so far. He may be vocal, but he has often been prone to drifting—or, at times, charging—wildly and recklessly out of position, leaving his defensive teammates to cover for his positional indiscipline.
Rather than the new Jamie Carragher, a better comparison has so far seemed Chelsea's recently departed David Luiz. It's far too soon to write him off, but a technically talented player as likely to pop up in midfield while Liverpool are defending against the counter as to be using the leadership skills he was brought in for to marshall the defence isn't what Liverpool needed.
"I'm 25 and I need to improve every game, both as a person and player," he said when asked if he was happy about his performance against Aston Villa on Saturday, where he continued his unfortunate streak of having played a key role in every Liverpool goal against so far this season. "I'm giving my best, that's the important thing, and with time and games it will come."
On paper at least, Ludogorets represents an opportunity for Lovren to work towards that against a side Liverpool should beat handily. It may also be the kind of opponent against which he will feel less pressure to do everything, an urge that may be at root of his inconsistent performances so far and that fans will hope is no more than a reflection of his desire to impress at a new club.
"I'm not worried," Lovren added. "I'm confident in our team. We are practically a new team with a lot of new players, but everything will settle down in the next few games. Nobody wants to concede goals, but it's football and anything can happen, so we need to move on. With games you can get better and better. We are ready."