Red Bull gives Liverpool wings as Leipzig victory sets tone for comeback

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Liverpool turned performance into result on Tuesday night as they dominated RB Leipzig to a 2-0 win, which gives a platform to build on in Saturday’s Merseyside derby.

So, Red Bull really does give you wings…

Leipzig were arguably guilty of a touch of overconfidence before this one; much was made of the coaching high llama that is Julian Nagelsmann, in a round of backslapping where even he himself seemed to massage his own shoulders.

It’s not that Nagelsmann isn’t deserving of such praise, it’s just that it seems odd to talk yourself up before a potential fall.

Nagelsmann’s team reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, and when the draw for the last 16 was made I did wince a little bit, at a time when Liverpool were unaware of the domestic difficulties to come.

Circulating in the buildup to this one, Nagelsmann had either spoken, or been spoken of, in terms of an unrequited approach for his services from Real Madrid, and being on the shopping list of Tottenham as a prospective replacement for Jose Mourinho.

Pride comes before a fall, and all that.

Not long since linked with AC Milan, Nagelsmann is a coach with immense potential, and there is a certain vision at play in how he demands his teams perform.

He’ll either go on to greatness, or he’ll become Germany’s answer to Andre Villas-Boas.

The Leipzig coach, who so often dresses for football as if setting off to walk his dog or purchase a pint of milk, was bullish enough in his post-match duties to proclaim the tie is not over, after Liverpool had obtained a morale-boosting 2-0 victory.

Given that we’ve had a propensity of late to concede high quantities of goals, in short bursts, this is a fair point that will need to be heeded.

But by the same respect, if Nagelsmann and his team come at us with an attempt to land an early blow, then Mo Salah will be the eager counter-punch.

In many ways, it was perhaps better that it was a wary Liverpool that faced Leipzig, rather than the free-wheeling version.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Roberto Firmino after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Puskás Aréna. (Pic by Propaganda)

Whisper it, but the portents of doom aimed at Liverpool prior to this one, when compared to the ego-massaging of their opponents, almost felt like one of those Merseyside derbies when we’re being written off in the buildup, while Everton are being praised to the max for being seventh.

Handy, like, considering there is a Merseyside derby looming on Saturday, where Everton are being praised for being seventh.

There is, of course, no saying that the midweek resumption of the Champions League and a win that blossomed despite a compelling early scare can be translated into a renewing of vows with domestic harmony, but it is a step in the right direction.

After recent games, I’ve mentioned the concept of Liverpool needing to simplify what they are doing, and for them to ignore the bigger picture in some respects, to instead focus on dealing with the basics correctly.

One win doesn’t alter that, but on Tuesday night we did many of the basics correctly, and we were rewarded for it.

Liverpool celebrate after Sadio Mane scores their second (Trenka Attila/PA)

Yes, winning the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League, away, without conceding a goal, is a solid foundation upon which we can keep our season alive – at least until mid-April, when the second leg of the quarter-finals are contested.

But for that to happen, we’ll need to do more of the basics correctly, on a game-to-game basis.

It is about restoring confidence, which can be painstaking. Yet once you get to a point where doing the basics correctly becomes second nature, then that is when the bigger picture develops once again, and the prizes draw into view.

The successes of the last few seasons have been garnered via a foundation of doing the basics correctly, no matter how magnificent we have looked on the front foot.

We did well against Leipzig, when it came to the basics. There were no weak links, while some stepped up to orchestrate.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Puskás Aréna. (Pic by Propaganda)

Curtis Jones was wonderful, Alisson pulled off some important saves, Trent Alexander-Arnold was defensively sound and dangerous in the opposing half, Thiago looked at greater ease against familiar foes, Sadio Mane was excellent and Salah continues to bubble along nicely.

Everybody else underpinned the performance. That early scare aside, there were no major causes for concern.

Where this win leads to is anybody’s guess, however.

This season is what it is. It’s an injury-hit one, it’s the season after the campaign before, it’s also one that is echoing to the sound of silence.

Within this many teams – not only in the Premier League, but across Europe – are struggling to live up to their reputations. It isn’t only us. These really are the strangest of times.

I can’t tell you when, but we’ll get it right eventually, though.

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - Tuesday, February 16, 2021: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates after scoring the second goal as RB Leipzig's goalkeeper Pe?ter Gula?csi looks dejected during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg game between RB Leipzig and Liverpool FC at the Puskás Aréna. (Pic by Propaganda)

Of course, it would be marvellous if it were in a Champions League final that is scheduled for the Ataturk Stadium in three months’ time.

Yet even then it wouldn’t feel quite right, in a likely empty stadium that we made our own 16 years ago.

Everton next it is, then. Losing at home to Fulham wasn’t in the script for them last weekend, and while in Carlo Ancelotti they finally have a manager of great substance – and a likeable one at that – they will always, habitually, be Everton.

We’ll either ruin them, or they’ll grind out a draw that they’ll celebrate like a victory.

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