Liverpool were held to a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night, eventually succumbing to the Spaniards on penalties.
It wasn’t the same team selected as against Bayern so Liverpool can be forgiven for letting their standards slip slightly.
A relatively strange full back pairing of Milner and Flanagan were selected alongside Joe Gomez, Ragnar Klavan and Danny Ward in defence and the back five didn’t fare too badly all things considered.
Realistically, the ‘final’ was a glorified friendly, so as with all games, the result needs to be taken with a pinch of salt but for Liverpool there should be some positives to take – especially given the line up was lacking numerous first-team starters.
There were also one or two negatives that also caught the eye.
Andrew Robertson impresses once again
The full back pairing of Milner and Flanagan was honestly dreadful in the first half. Sure, we only conceded the once but it was going forward that both players limitations really came to the fore.
Neither possesses any pace and of course, Milner being a right footed player on the left hand side always causes a lack of width and with it, a much more pigeon holed style of player.
Enter Andy Robertson at half time.
The Scotsman’s introduction immediately saw the Reds look far more threatening going forward and the introduction of a capable left foot on the left wing gave Liverpool far more width – funny how that happens.
We saw against Bayern how important having a left footed left back with pace can be to the Reds attack with a surprisingly brilliant performance from Alberto Moreno and while Robertson couldn’t quite have an effect of the same level, the team looked far more fluent with him in it.
Danny Ward in contention this season?
I fully expected Simon Mignolet to start in place of Loris Karius for this fixture.
I like Ward but he hadn’t featured at all in pre-season so far and despite Klopp’s claims that the goalkeeping spot would be a three way shootout, it was looking far more likely to be a two horse race. Until now.
The Welshman honestly took his chance very, very well.
One superb stop denied Angel Correa in the first half as he tipped the ball onto the bar before his defence let him down by failing to clear, while his passing, long distribution and odd bit of sweeping were all impressive. Another good save later on helped take the game to penalties but let’s be honest, shootouts are cruel on keepers no matter how you look at it and nothing can be taken away from his performance during regulation time.
It had looked a two horse race until this point but perhaps both Mignolet and Karius should be taking a nervous glance over their shoulders.
Pens, pens and more pens
Roberto Firmino buried one to equalise late on after an admittedly dubious bit of decision making from the referee saw Divock Origi rewarded for tumbling in the box and with Milner substituted already, the shootout to cap the game off handed some much needed practise to the rest of the squad.
With the Reds to participate in three knock out competitions this year – European football of some kind and hopefully challenging in at least one domestic cup – penalties could be of the utmost importance.
It was a positive then, to see nearly all five of the Reds spot kick takers bury their efforts, with only Jordan Henderson missing with what was a fairly tame penalty. There’s not always huge amounts to be learned from pre-season games but at least Klopp will have a better idea of who to hand spot kicks to in the case of a James Milner absence.
Time for Liverpool Football Club to kick it up a gear
What seemed to be the closest thing to Liverpool’s first-choice XI that we’ve seen so far impressed greatly against Bayern Munich and the lads rotated in admittedly didn’t do a bad job against Atletico but now it’s time for things to get ramped up a gear.
Klopp’s men have one more pre-season fixture left this summer – against Bilbao next Saturday – before their opening day away trip to Watford on August 12th.
Injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have seen them look short-staffed at right back, while the manager has so far failed to acquire his first-choice and priority targets in the market – Salah aside.
While the optimistic of us remain positive that Virgil van Dijk may still join in the next few weeks, it looks as if Klopp will be starting the Premier League season with those already at the club and he’ll be hoping to now ramp up those player’s preparations.
The fixture against Watford is just over a week away and Klopp’s men need to unsure they are more ready than they’ve ever been for a game of football.