Darwin Nunez: Liverpool’s disappointing pre-season campaign continued with a 1-0 defeat to Red Bull Salzburg of Austria.
Jurgen Klopp, the manager of the Reds, selected a largely rotated starting lineup, most likely in preparation for the upcoming Community Shield match against Manchester City on Saturday night at the King Power Stadium.
Club record signing Darwin Nunez started the lineup as the captain, although the lineup comprised four adolescents, just one of whom, Harvey Elliott, has any significant first-team experience.
The best opportunity to start the scoring belonged to Salzburg, but Benjamin Sesko was unable to score just before the half-hour mark with the goal gaping. The Slovenian, who scored past Adrian to give his team the lead, made sure the miss didn’t matter too much.
That goal ended up being sufficient as Liverpool’s constant pressure was insufficient to overcome Salzburg shot-stopper Nico Mantl, who was in the midst of an exceptional run of play against the Premier League giants.
The following are some discussion points from the friendly game;
The performance of Darwin Nunez
The £80 million man has been the subject of intense media attention throughout the preseason as a result of the enormous sum that Liverpool paid to get him from Benfica.
Nunez is only 23 years old, so it would be charitable to imply that he is even close to being done, but he still has plenty of time to develop into the type of center-forward Klopp wants.
Having said that, it was challenging to evaluate this particular performance, especially after his previous outing, in which he scored four goals in a single match against RB Leipzig.
Nunez never backs away from the action and makes sure he is always a target for those seeking for him, but his finishing has occasionally been sloppy, and the Reds lost the first half due to his inability to get his shot off in time.
The Uruguayan had one shot that hit the crossbar, but his best opportunity of the first half came when he brought the ball down from a distance of no more than 10 yards, but he turned away from the opportunity and let it pass him by without attempting to score.
He was punished when Klopp hooked Nunez in place of Roberto Firmino at halftime.
Community Shield tryouts
While some of the more well-known players will return for the match against Manchester City, there may still be a place in Klopp’s plans for the forthcoming trip to King Power Stadium for younger players.
In the preseason friendly against the Austrian club, Klopp decided to start Isaac Mabaya and Stefan Bajcetic, both 17 years old. Bajcetic put forth an outstanding preseason performance by showing off some impressive passing in the middle of the park.
While Mabaya filled in admirably for the regular right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold with a tough performance in which his front-footed defending technique frequently worked in Liverpool’s favor and eliminated the threat of Salzburg’s assault.
Mabaya’s ability to quickly advance but barely break a sweat when returning to his defensive responsibilities shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that he is a midfielder by trade, but it is certain to have impressed his manager none the less.
Jurgen Klopp’s reaction
The Liverpool manager selected a significantly altered starting eleven that featured many players who frequently struggle to earn first-team minutes or are more accustomed to playing at the youth level.
In favor of their replacements, names like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk, Luis Diaz, Alisson Becker, and Mohamed Salah were all left off the starting lineup.
All of the aforementioned individuals are highly likely to have a far bigger impact in the matchup against Pep Guardiola’s team on Saturday and, of course, the Premier League season opener the following weekend.
After the game, Jurgen Klopp said: “All the boys can do much better, it’s not about that. We played in the first half against a team who might play Champions League, they have to qualify probably but they might play. And it’s a tough task for the line-up we chose.
“How I said, they do extremely well and we played in their cards. When you play football but you are not connected, you lose the ball, it means there’s always space to use for the counter-attack. And that’s what we gave them. And that’s what we have to learn. That’s what we know but in the first half maybe we didn’t know it good enough and that’s why we conceded the goal.”