Sunday was the second pre-season match of the summer and boy did it look like we needed it. While most of our senior squad has returned to training, not everyone is quite match fit yet, so there were still a number of kids and a number of absences on the pitch.
Liverpool played Bradford City, one in part because aforementioned pre-season friendly, and two in part to raise money for former Liverpool (and Bradford City) player Stephen Darby’s foundation to help fight Motor Neuron Disease, following his own diagnosis with the disease last September. While a charity event, it was still a chance for Jürgen Klopp to get a good look at what’s happening with his boys in their preparations. Liverpool ended up winning by three goals to one, despite their rusty performances.
“For the first 30 minutes I would say we were very confident, we did the right things in the right moments. Then we lost rhythm and didn’t get it back, to be honest. It looked a bit more rusty, but that’s how it is in pre-season very often, taking the wrong decisions and all that stuff,” Klopp said following the match.
“But it was still a wonderful third for Rhian’s goal, really nice. The goals were really, really good. Second half, we never really could get the rhythm so it was a bit boring, to be honest. If you are not creative on a specific day, you have to use the simple solutions and then you need to be still direct, try to come behind the last line.
“But it’s normal, we have to feel things like this, you have to do things like this and then the manager has to criticise you and then you make the next step and everything is good again.”
It was their last match before the Reds travel Stateside next week, starting with a match in Notre Dame stadium in Indiana, and many of the Academy kids are expected to take part in that as well with three major players set to miss the tour entirely. It’s a big chance for the kids to impress Klopp but they have to take it themselves - including a couple young left backs looking to take Alberto Moreno’s vacant spot.
“The door is always open, but the boys have to go through by themselves. It is always like this in each pre-season,” Klopp continued.
“Of course, as you can imagine, we will have a look at all the things around us. Of course we have lost a left-back and today you saw two pretty young ones, James [Milner] has played it and all that stuff.”
The youngsters weren’t the only ones looking to make a spot for themselves, but some senior players as well like Adam Lallana worked towards making a role for himself in the starting XI. Lallana played a deeper 6-type role and Klopp is still willing to test it out but he’s still “like a new signing.”
“Adam is this kind of player, he can play that no problem. He enjoys it obviously a lot! It’s about getting Adam the rhythm, bringing the things he is naturally good in: small spaces, keeping the ball, passing the ball and all that stuff, and then from time to time offering the runs in behind as well – especially together with Millie that’s possible,” added the manager.
“For us it’s another option to use. He just needs a bit of luck now [in terms of avoiding injury], that’s true. We have to come through [pre-season] without injuries, that would be cool, and we have a couple of ‘new’ players I would say, this season.”
For now, all eyes turn towards finishing the pre-season strong and heading into the new campaign, potentially with targets on their backs as the reigning Champions of Europe. A challenge Klopp isn’t unfamiliar with, even coming as runner’s up the year before.
“To be honest, last year we were second in Europe but everybody wanted to win against us! When we went to Newcastle I thought ‘OK, what are we playing today here for?’, the intensity was like a World Cup. I don’t think it will be more tough [to win], but it will be tough like always.
“I had to learn that pretty quick: when you are a Liverpool team and you go somewhere, they’re all really on their toes. That was never different, but we will be prepared for that for sure.”