Jurgen Klopp returned to Germany for Liverpool’s Europa League last-32 first leg tie, as his side took part in an uninspiring but not disastrous 0-0 draw in Augsburg.
It was a damp squib of a game, especially as it followed the six goal thrashing of Aston Villa on Sunday, but there were still plenty of talking points…
Here are just five of them:
Klopp is taking the Europa League seriously
When questioned on team selection, the Liverpool manager always says that he picks the best side available to him.
Before the FA Cup ties with Exeter and West Ham the German’s team selection was considered weak – even though many of the so-called reserve players picked in those games were in better form than the high-earning “first-teamers” – but Klopp was adamant that they were teams which gave the club the best chance of progressing.
While questions were still raised as to whether these FA Cup line-ups were indeed the best players available, there can be no doubt that tonight’s Europa League eleven contained the cream of Liverpool’s crop.
Coutinho provides occasional spark on a dull night in Germany
The Brazilian pulled all the strings in midfield when he returned to the team against Aston Villa when, stationed in an attacking midfield berth – slightly to the left, he produced two brilliant assists and was the stand-out player in the impressive 6-0 victory at the weekend.
Tonight he looked to continue where he left off, and even though he didn’t produce any goals some of his touches, turns, and short passing provided a reminder of what he can do.
On a fairly uneventful night in Bavaria the Liverpool number ten gave something back to the fans of both sides who’d turned up in full voice to support their respective teams.
While the home faithful might not have been cheering him on, a few of them must surely have appreciated his Brazilian flair.
Have Liverpool stumbled upon their best back four?
Klopp’s choice of centre back pairing has often been no more than a case of picking the two players who aren’t injured.
But with Steven Caulker waiting in the wings, Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho have looked the steadiest – or perhaps the least unsteady – of Liverpool’s various central defensive duos.
The full-backs pick themselves as, despite some impressive performances by Brad Smith and Jon Flanagan when they have been given their chance, Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno are the obvious senior players in these positions.
Their attacking intent was on show when Clyne almost set Moreno up to score in the second half of this game, while the Spaniard also had a couple of shots on goal.
With this back four Liverpool have now kept two clean sheets in a row; something which has only happened on one other occasion this season, when the back four were Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, and Moreno.
It’s OK for European aways to be uneventful
Liverpool would have liked to have scored the away goal, but on the whole a 0-0 away from home in a two-legged European tie isn’t the worst outcome.
Continental opposition are always underestimated by media outlets who cover the British teams in these competitions, and none of the three Premier League teams picked up a win in their away matches in the competition tonight.
Manchester United suffered a defeat in Denmark against FC Midtjylland, while Spurs probably picked up the best result with their 1-1 draw against Fiorentina in Florence.
In European competition, regardless of the opposition, an uneventful draw away from home can be ideal.
A weekend off, then Augsburg, then the cup final…
It’s entirely possible that Liverpool could line up with the same players in a week’s time when they face Augsburg again in the return leg at Anfield.
The club’s exit from the FA Cup at the hands of West Ham means they have a weekend off, and it will finally give the coaches chance to work with the players more thoroughly on the training pitch.
But with the League Cup final on the horizon, just a few days after this second leg, squad management will be important and the manager has some tough decisions to make. Does he stick with this line-up for the Europa tie, or save them for the final?
It helps that the games are this way around, though, as a trip to Germany three days before a trip to Wembley would have thrown up different problems.
As it is Liverpool will face Augsburg in the comfort of their own home, while Manchester City have a trip to Kiev to cope with on the Wednesday before the final.
- MATCH REPORT: Honours even after dull draw in Germany
- FAN REACTIONS: “Underwhelming”
- PLAYER RATINGS: Lots of average performances