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Thiago Alcantara exclusive: Midfield maestro on Liverpool's mid-season malaise and why he decided to swap the Allianz Arena for Anfield
Thiago Alcantara's Liverpool side are in action away to Jose Mourinho's Tottenham tonight - exclusively live on BT Sport from 7pm.
It's hardly been a dream start to Thiago Alcantara's Liverpool career.
A world-class operator boasting a CV littered with honours for club and country, Thiago was regarded as the missing piece of the puzzle for a Liverpool midfield that has lacked guile and subtlety since Philippe Coutinho's departure.
But in the four months since he swapped the Allianz for Anfield, Thiago has made just four Premier League appearances in a season that has been curtailed by injury and poor form.
The Brazilian-born maestro missed over two months of action after picking up an ankle injury in Liverpool's Merseyside derby victory over Everton back in October.
The 29-year-old has found form and consistency hard to come by since then.
Astonishingly, Liverpool's goalless draw at home to Manchester United last weekend was the Spain international's first appearance at Anfield.
The fact that Thiago's failure to hit the ground running has coincided with Liverpool's alarming slump in form has made for a challenging start to life in England, with five teams all vying to knock the Reds off their perch.
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"All the teams in the Premier League are trying to reach Liverpool!" Thiago told BT Sport.
"In Germany they’re chasing Bayern, in Spain it’s Real Madrid or Barcelona.
"When you win something your biggest challenge is to maintain that level and try to win again."
It's a benchmark that Jurgen Klopp's side have struggled to match so far this season.
A 3-2 defeat at Old Trafford in the fourth round of the FA Cup means Liverpool have now lost back-to-back games in all competitions for the first time since March 2020, leaving many to wonder what has happened to the team that eased to the Premier League title last season.
As the Reds prepare to visit Tottenham on Thursday in a season-defining game, Thiago is confident the reigning champions can snap a five-game winless run in the league that stretches back to late December.
"We create chances in the first 20 or 30 minutes and against deeper teams, if you score this first goal then things get open and we have more time for transition," Thiago said.
"But if you are 0-0 after 30 minutes the other team feels confident and comfortable and says ‘OK, we can sit back because the game is 0-0 at Anfield.'
"That means we don’t have the opportunity to play in transition because they don’t move forward to attack.
"We are trying to be a little bit different, play in different positions to beat teams that sit deep.
"But Liverpool’s transitions are so important. When you have fast players up front you have to take advantage of it. Our forwards have made a lot of goals in transition in the past."
While the absence of the talismanic Virgil van Dijk has been keenly felt, it's at the other end of the pitch where Liverpool have been struggling.
The Reds have failed to score a single goal in their last four Premier League outings. It's a remarkable fall from a grace for a team that has been second-top scorers in each of the last three seasons.
Liverpool's alarming slump in form has seen them go from favourites to retain their trophy to 10/1 outsiders.
While the country's bookmakers have lost faith, Thiago insists Liverpool still have the "hunger" to go back-to-back.
"We still have a chance in the Premier League and the Champions League. We are very focussed and have the hunger inside to overcome this situation.
"If you look back at our last games, you say ‘how many of these last six games did we deserve to win?’ it’s not about playing better or worse, it’s about did we deserve to win? Most of them we deserved to win.
"But this is football. You can play awful and win, it’s about taking your chances in the right moment when you create the opportunity and to be clear with the idea of what’s going right and what’s going wrong."
Having won league and cup honours in Germany and Spain, Thiago revealed it was the opportunity to win silverware under Klopp that peaked his interest in joining Liverpool.
"When the option to join Liverpool came up I had a chat with Jurgen [Klopp]. He gives off this amazing energy and this hunger that makes you believe you can win everything," he said.
"I began to ask my Bayern team-mates ‘how was your time in Dortmund’ and I learned more about the team and the coach.
"So I made my decision to join him and so far he’s been a great, great coach."
Whether Thiago fulfils his ambition of adding more silverware to his trophy cabinet could hinge on this week's heavyweight clash with title rivals Spurs.
Win and Liverpool will re-establish themselves in an enthralling title race that is threatening to slip away from them.
Lose and the spotlight on Thiago's move will only intensity.