Liverpool took on Blackburn in a warmup friendly at Anfield on Thursday, and emerging 6-0 winners it proved the ideal preparation for the Premier League.
Ten days before they get their title tilt back underway at Goodison Park, the Reds hosted Championship side Blackburn in a behind-closed-doors clash.
Though designed to build up fitness and sharpness ahead of their competitive return, there is a sense of urgency among the Liverpool squad with just six points needed to clinch the trophy.
Jurgen Klopp named a strong side from the start and used his bench to shuffle things around as the game went on, and was rewarded with a strong 6-0 victory.
The goals came from Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, Takumi Minamino, Joel Matip, Ki-Jana Hoever and Leighton Clarkson, and Klopp was clearly pleased with how the game went.
After exactly three months without a fixture, this was a much-needed taste of Liverpool in action once again, and here are five things we spotted from the warmup win.
Keita’s Picking up Steam
After an impressive highlight reel from the Reds’ inter-squad friendly earlier in the month, Keita produced another goalscoring display against Rovers.
It isn’t the first time Keita has shone against Tony Mowbray’s side, having caught the eye in the 2-0 win at Ewood Park in his first pre-season at the club, but between these outings there have been many false dawns.
Keita has now played 51 competitive games for Liverpool, but with just six goals, two assists and only 11 times playing the full 90 minutes, he has struggled to justify the continued hype.
Expectations will increase again with these bright mid-season showings, and hopefully this time Keita is able to meet those when the Premier League returns.
Minamino the No. 9
With Liverpool having pulled out of the running for Timo Werner, and the German instead set to move to Chelsea, there has been concern among many fans regarding a lack of attacking options for next season.
Such is the nature of modern football and the clamour for transfers, however, that amid the frustration of Werner’s not-even-official switch to Stamford Bridge, the Reds’ most recent signing has been somewhat forgotten.
Minamino started up front at Anfield on Thursday, and it appears the Japanese is being primed for a role as Roberto Firmino‘s alternate.
It was against a Championship side, of course, but this friendly saw Minamino score his first goal for the club, and with increased game time likely in the coming weeks, hopefully he can make us forget about Timo.
Earlier on Thursday, the 20 Premier League clubs voted in favour of proposed matchday protocols, with a maximum of 300 people allowed access to a stadium for games and strict social distancing measures followed.
This includes players and staff sitting two metres apart from each other on the sidelines, and this was seen as Klopp and his backroom watched on from the technical area.
Klopp’s substitutes were in the stands behind the dugout, spaced apart, while their Blackburn counterparts were stationed on the other side on the pitch in the Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand.
It is likely we will see similar when the top flight gets underway, as no risks are taken with the return of football in England.
The Clarkson and Cain Connection
Though Klopp began the game with close to a full-strength side, he called upon a host of youngsters in the second half, in what could be a nod to the plan for a 20-man squad for league games.
Two of those to feature against Blackburn were Clarkson and Jake Cain, two close friends who have risen through the academy ranks together and both debuted in the cup games under Neil Critchley.
Both midfielders, Clarkson and Cain tallied nine goals and 24 assists between them at youth level this season, and have caught the eye in training sessions at Melwood.
Clarkson’s strike to make it 6-0 was hugely impressive, and Klopp was full of praise for the teenager from Lancashire, and in particular his calmness in possession.
Whether the pair will feature for the first team before the season’s end is unlikely, but it seems they are in Klopp’s thoughts for the long term.
With just 10 days to go until the Merseyside derby, Liverpool are taking no risks when it comes to injuries.
Gini Wijnaldum watched from the stands at the inter-squad friendly, and both Andy Robertson and Mohamed Salah were absent this time around as fitness issues are navigated carefully.
Divock Origi, Adrian, Curtis Jones and Adam Lallana also seem to have missed out.
There is no indication any of that group or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—who is said to have been brought off after taking a knock to the ankle—will be absent on June 21, and instead, it should just be a case of practising caution.
With suggestions that such a lengthy spell without competitive football could lead to increase soft muscle injuries, Liverpool are right to stay alert in these warmup games.