Naby Keita once again showcased there is an intangible thought-process as to why Liverpool made the Guinean playmaker the club’s third most expensive signing in their 127-year history following an impressive performance against Norwich City at the weekend.
The 25-year-old still remains one of the few enigma’s of Liverpool’s transfer success during Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool tenure after the Reds activated the former RB Leipzig midfielder’s release clause for a fee of £48m [BBC Sport].
Klopp handed Keita only his third league start of the season during Liverpool’s 1-0 victory at Carrow Road. The former Salzburg talisman vindicated his manager’s leap of faith following his first start since sustaining muscle damage during the warm-up in the Reds’ clash with Sheffield United last month.
He utilised the ball superbly in the opening 45 minutes and was a menace in transition as Keita looked to get at the opposition with his quick feet and intelligent link-up play. There was a moment in the first half where Keita danced around three Norwich players and intricately found Mohamed Salah in the box which nearly resulted in a Liverpool goal.
Time and time again Keita has showcased he is capable of doing the right things as well as the capability of doing great things. However, if there is one element to his game that still eludes the Guinea international it’s his ability to affect the game infrequent moments with Keita still lacking that needed cut-edge approach in his end play.
This is why he would arguably benefit from not starting against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening. Liverpool will line up against one of the most defensively acute and stubborn outfits in European football.
Klopp will require a patient approach if he is to break down an Atletico unit that has only conceded 17 goals in 24 league matches this season – just two more than Liverpool. The Reds will require an adaptable game plan if they are to dictate the course of this first-leg tie in the Spanish capital.
This will likely result in the German manager opting to use his most trusted midfield trident with Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum providing a more rugged and evenly balanced unit.
Keita has the tendency to be a bit too optimistic in transition and is a player who looks to break defensive line quickly and intensely. This can be effective against less obstinate and more ambitiously attacking opposition but in a game of this magnitude Keita may benefit from a night away from the social media microscope.