Liverpool’s two matches against Bologna on Thursday ended in two victories, one by two goals and the other by a single strike – with a missed penalty thrown in, too.
Liverpool 2-0 Bologna
Goals: Jota 6′, Mane 12′
Liverpool 1-0 Bologna
Goals: Minamino 14′
60-minute Pre-Season Friendlies; Evian, France
Thursday, 5 August 2021
Stop hurting our eyes
Nobody cares about pre-season, right? Even so, making the Reds look like Manchester United might be a bit much.
Red shirts, check. White socks…interesting, but fine.
Black shorts? Only on an away or third kit, and never with a red top, thanks.
Perhaps it was a mix-up with Bologna’s intended strip, perhaps the shorts got lost en route to Evian, perhaps it was first-summer nerves in the role after the Reds changed their kit man this summer following a 35-year stint.
No big deal, we know, we know. But we’d rather see James Milner and the gang play in their underpants next time rather than look like the rabble from down the road!
Van Dijk builds the rhythm
Anyway, fitness-first for pre-season still, especially for those building up after injury.
Virgil got himself around 40 minutes on the pitch, looking sharp and decent in possession for most of the time, with one or two chases back showing the turn of pace remains to the big Dutchman.
A couple of aerial duels at either end also showed where a bit more timing and general perfection can still be worked on – totally normal after his long-term absence, of course.
He’s slowly increasing the game time and no doubt he’ll see an hour or so in one of the Anfield friendlies to come.
First day front three
With Roberto Firmino only just back in pre-season match action, Xherdan Shaqiri hoping to be sold, no new arrivals on the horizon and Divock Origi largely useless, the Reds’ front three to start the new campaign seems set.
Diogo Jota occupied the No.9 role, with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane either side of him. All three looked sharp, in their own way, with the Senegal and Portugal internationals finding the net in style.
Both came after defensive errors, which was pleasing to see in terms of the pressure put on the ball high up and the composure shown to finish, Jota waltzing past a challenge or two en route to goal and Mane rounding the keeper for his.
Salah didn’t score, but he smacked the crossbar, was involved in the final third plenty and if he’s not within a goal or two of the top scorer across the season as a whole it’d be a surprise anyway – though we’d love him to start with a hat-trick like last year.
Another game, another step toward a full-strength side.
Fabinho, Alisson and Roberto Firmino all appeared in the second game, getting themselves a first post-Copa America run-out in the process.
In terms of the opener against Norwich, it’s a sliding scale of need versus fitness: Ali will start because he’s a ‘keeper and doesn’t need minutes in the legs in the way outfielders do.
Fabinho might start, assuming no bumps in the road between now and then, because he might be needed to – no Henderson, no Wijnaldum, nobody really capable of filling in as the six. He might not be a 90-minute performer, mind.
And Bobby, while seeming like a pro version of your Sunday League mate who can be half-fit and still the best on the pitch in possession at times, has far less requirement on him to hit the ground running, due to the aforementioned trio from the first game.
Aside from getting starters fit, pre-season is also about seeing who is making steps toward being capable of challenging for a first-team spot from the squad rotation options.
Who, in short, is going to be the new Bruno Cheyrou.
This pre-season, Kostas Tsimikas probably has the crown for best performer who wasn’t already in the XI, but Takumi Minamino has also had some good moments and scored a belter here.
Jones, Ox and youngster Kaide Gordon are all in the same category of receiving nods of approval so far.
Mix-and-match at the back
Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez was an interesting partnership in the second game, after Virgil and Joel Matip were reunited on the pitch, rather than just on t-shirts, in the first.
Fitness questions aside, we have a quartet of seniors now who can feasibly all play alongside each other, Gomez and Konate in particular seeming the duo likely to switch from right to left of centre according to need.
There’s a way to go to have them all in top gear, and form as much as fitness will determine the “first choice” pairing as the season goes on, but given the struggles of last season, it’s infinitely more enjoyable to pick out which of the massed ranks of centre-backs might start rather than which out-of-position individuals should asked to step in.
Bring on Anfield…then the new season!