SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - Tuesday, August 25, 2020: Liverpool's James Milner during a preseason friendly match between FC Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Red Bull Arena. (Pic by Propaganda)

Milner’s ‘warm’ welcome & memorable debuts as Liverpool kickoff summer schedule in style

It was all smiles for Liverpool as they kicked off their summer with a 3-0 friendly win over Stuttgart, where Kostas Tsimikas got more than he bargained for as he was welcomed into the fold.

Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds were met by a downpour in their opening pre-season fixture in Austria, one they emerged on the right side of in a routine win.

As has become custom in the summer, Liverpool fielded two different XIs in either half, injecting valuable minutes into the legs of the squad ahead of a congested season.

A strong first-half lineup saw the Reds take a two-goal lead into the break, thanks to strikes from Roberto Firmino and Naby Keita – the latter of whom was the standout from the opening term.

In the second, Rhian Brewster added the finishing touches as Adrian ensured Liverpool walked away with a clean sheet, while Kostas Tsimikas and Billy Koumetio made their ‘debuts’.

While a heavy pitch saw Stuttgart succumb to injury, the Reds were able to escape without harm as they now swiftly turn their attention to Salzburg on Tuesday.

And Curtis Jones, who supplied the assist for Firmino after a strong run in the box, was delighted to get 45 minutes under his belt as he looks to continue his upward trajectory:

“We’ve been training hard this week and I’m happy to get 45 in the tank and I thought the boys performed well so happy days.

“A goal, an assist – a win, it all counts for me as an attacker. But I’m happy with the assist and I’m happy for Bobby to get his first goal of the season.

“I’ve always said that whenever I am called upon I will always give 100 percent, whether it’s at right-back, centre-back or striker but today was a position that I like and was alongside good players.

“I can’t wait for the next game and what the season holds for me.”

The outing on Saturday was full of firsts for the Reds. It was the first meeting with Stuttgart this millennium, the first game in a Nike kit and the first game for Koumetio and Tsimikas.

It was not the first time James Milner has used colourful language, however, with the Reds’ new No. 21 on the receiving end of a warm welcome of: “Oh Kostas, f***ing hell!” after he failed to reward Milner’s overlap.

And the moment was not lost on the club’s vice-captain post-match as he conceded he “got caught warmly welcoming Kostas to the team.”

There was, of course, no ill-feeling with Tsimikas commenting “thanks bro” in response before penning his own message of pride for having made his “debut for this great club”:

The feeling of seeing your first minutes with the Liver Bird on your chest was also not lost on Koumetio, who was quick to insist that he would be “working harder for more”:

It was smiles all around for Jones, Sepp van den Berg and Gini Wijnaldum as they celebrated both getting back on the park and the win:

Despite being away from competitive action for just 27 days, Fabinho felt the absence of the “red jersey” and Andy Robertson was pleased with the debut outing for the new kit:

Marko Grujic and Nat Phillips, both of whom spent last season on loan and played the second 45, were happy to be back in a Liverpool shirt:

Meanwhile, Brewster was overjoyed to have hit the scoreboard in his first game back as fellow youngster Harvey Elliott shared his delight at being back on the pitch:

A sentiment shared by Virgil van Dijk, who donned the captain’s armband in the first half in the absence of Jordan Henderson and James Milner:

With game action under their belts away from the training pitch, Liverpool have taken an important step forward in their preparations for the 2020/21 season.

And while training will continue in Austria over the next few days, they will finish their pre-season camp with a meeting against Salzburg – who are ahead of the Reds in terms of preparation time having already played four friendly fixtures.