Liverpool lined up a partially rotated side against Napoli on Tuesday evening, reflecting the fact that the Reds had already secured advancement with a second place finish in their Champions League group and even a win was unlikely to push them to first.
Despite that, it was a largely solid performance. Yet it was a solid performance without a great deal of attacking threat. At least until striker Darwin Nuñez came on in the second half as a substitute and had a hand in Liverpool’s two goals on the night.
“In these games, for us it was obviously not a game for massive rotation but a little bit we had to,” reflected manager Jürgen Klopp. “Then when you can then bring on a fresh player with the quality of Darwin it’s very helpful, so I’m really happy about that.”
In his 17 minute cameo, Nuñez was an agent of chaos to set up Mohamed Salah’s opener—a goal that millimetres from going over the line for Nuñez before the rebound was slammed home by Salah—then scoring his own. He also earned a yellow card.
He could easily have had both the Reds’ goals. He was also millimetres from setting up another Salah goal with an audacious move to beat his man one-on-one on the break before a low driven cross was deflected by the toe of a desperately lunging defender.
Nuñez’ introduction also meant a shift back to the 4-4-2 diamond late in the match after Klopp returned Liverpool to a 4-3-3, suggesting that whether or not the physically dominant Uruguayan starts will play a role in formation for the Reds moving forward.
“It’s the system we played most often, the system which is familiar to us when we played well and we can defend better in that,” Klopp said of starting with the 4-3-3. “It was always on the table for us but doesn’t mean we will play it from now on all the time.
“Then Darwin came on and offensively it’s not a problem, there is no difference to a diamond really, but defensively it is a big difference and we just have to figure out what is best for us when which players are playing.”