Following all the plaudits from his teammates and manager, Diogo Jota was also named UEFA Champions League player of the week — unsurprisingly, as the new signing bagged his third European hat-trick, his first for Liverpool, in the Reds’ third win from three in the group stages. This was Liverpool’s first perfect group stage start in the club’s history, with half of the matches played (per Opta).
Jota has one additional goal in the Champions League (four overall), and is joint top of the early days Champions League Golden Boot table alongside Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Erling Haland (Borussia Dortmund), and Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Salzburg).
The player added even more adulation from Reds’ fans to his locker with his now much-circulated interview: when asked if he is playing the best football of his life, the Portuguese replied that he was “playing in the best team of his life.”
Rarely has a new signing made such a pervasive impact, showing fans just how well-suited he is for the culture and style of play fostered under manager Jürgen Klopp.
Jota isn’t alone in his outside plaudits, however, as Curtis Jones and Rhys Williams have been rewarded for their involvement with the first team by further U21 call-ups, and might feature in the two U21 European Championship qualifiers next week. Both will have their eyes firmly on the first team given the minutes they’ve had with the Liverpool first team thus far this season.
Harvey Elliot, currently making a splash on loan to Blackburn Rovers in the Championship, and youth teammate Layton Stewart have been called up to the England U19 squad. Alongside them, Jarell Quansah, a defender in the Academy, has been called up to the England U18s.
While many question the need for International football amidst the global pandemic, the young Reds will be pleased with their progress, and the two youth sides (at the U18 and U19 level) will undertake a development training camp rather than playing any international fixtures.
Rhys Williams has been busy outside of his polished first team appearances, as well: the young defender has been nominated for the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award for October. He made two appearances for the U23s last month, and scored a headed goal against Chelsea as the Reds prevailed 3-1 at home.
This nomination is quite the compliment for the youngster, as it comes not from his own coaches, but from those of his opponents. Per Liverpoolfc.com, “The nominees were chosen by the Premier League’s Football Development Panel after Premier League 2 coaches named the best performance by an opposition player in each match during the month.” Williams will be rightfully proud of his efforts thus far in 2020/21.
As the first team squad turn their attention to the match at the Etihad on Sunday, they will certainly be bolstered by this recognized quality on all levels (and, of course, by results).
Following the loss of Virgil Van Dijk, few not wearing red shirts or holding red scarves aloft would have expected Liverpool to top both the Premier League and Champions League Group D table. Indeed, the dominance against Atalanta — and, perhaps more than anything, the clean sheet — was more than most would have predicted.
The Reds have a lot to be proud of as they look to play a tough match against opposition who arguably need the points more than their visitors. Liverpool will go to the Etihad looking to claim all three points in the toughest test since the loss of Van Dijk.
Their confidence will be bolstered by personnel availability elsewhere. Though Thiago Alcantara will miss the trip to Manchester City, as confirmed by Klopp on Friday morning, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still working towards a return, the squad will be bolstered by the likes of Naby Keïta, Kostas Tsimikas, and, perhaps most importantly, Joël Matip, all of whom returned to the bench (and getting minutes, in the case of Tsimikas and Keïta) in Italy midweek.