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Bolton Baresi and squad depth – 5 talking points from Milan 1-2 Liverpool

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Liverpool finished their Champions League group stage in style, making it six wins from six with a 2-1 win at the San Siro which showcased the strength of their squad.

AC Milan 1-2 Liverpool

Champions League Group Stage (6), San Siro
December 7, 2021

Goals: Tomori 28′; Salah 36′, Origi 55′


The Bolton Baresi

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips (R) challenges for a header with AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic? during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The game was won thanks to goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi, but the battle was won when Nat Phillips sent two Milan players careering past him as he manoeuvered his way out of his own area.

The San Siro has seen many world-class, legendary defenders grace its turf, and to see Liverpool’s cult hero from last season performing so well in this theatre was great to see.

Phillips is sometimes nicknamed the Bolton Baresi thanks to his performances that helped Liverpool qualify for the Champions League against the odds last season, so it was apt he had a good game in this competition at the home of the club where the Italian is so revered.

No one’s getting carried away (OK, maybe they are) not least Phillips himself, but such moments are there to be enjoyed.

A knock to the face in a challenge with Zlatan Ibrahimovic saw him mildly troubled in the final minutes, but he and Ibrahima Konate between them had kept Milan’s top scorer quiet all game.

 

What to say about Salah?

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The problem with Salah as a talking point is there isn’t much left to say about him.

It got to a stage in Lionel Messi’s career where people were stumped for new things to say about his genius, and it’s now a similar situation with Salah.

Like Messi did for Barcelona, Salah plays in Champions League and league games if available. There is a momentum about his form across games just as there is with his attacking play in isolated moments.

It would have made more sense to rest the Egyptian for this game, but when a player is in this type of form they almost demand to play in the biggest competitions, regardless of what is at stake in an individual game.

Salah probably broke some records tonight – he usually does, and at least they give us an excuse to talk about him even more, even if we don’t know what else to say.

 

A squad game

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's Divock Origi (R) celebrates after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Milan themselves were missing some first-team players such as Rafael Leao, Simon Kjaer and Davide Calabria, but were still able to call upon a number of their regulars and return top scorer Ibrahimovic to the lineup.

There were times in the not-too-distant past when a Liverpool first team wouldn’t be able to go to Milan and dominate a game, but here they were able to do so having changed their entire back four and midfield, and also including two academy products in the starting XI.

This was supposed to be a Liverpool squad lacking depth, and that may still prove to be the case later in the season, but this showed how well-drilled players are in Jurgen Klopp‘s first-team style, throughout the club.

It’s easy to forget, given the scoreline, that only three of these players would currently be considered part of Liverpool’s best XI – Alisson, Salah and Sadio Mane – and it’s thanks to those who stepped in that for a moment we did forget.

 

Pre-planned subs

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Though Klopp chose to start with Salah and Mane, they were both taken off just after the hour mark in what appeared to be pre-planned changes.

Neco Williams moved up to the right-wing position with Takumi Minamino taking up a role on the left after the introduction of Joe Gomez and Naby Keita.

It will be handy for Klopp to have these players fresh and ready as they are more than likely to be called upon ahead of the busy winter schedule.

It was a taster of what things to come when the pair will be away at the Africa Cup of Nations for at least a couple of games early next year, but more importantly, it was good to see Gomez and Keita back in action.

 

A remarkable run goes on

MILAN, ITALY - Tuesday, December 7, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to the travelling supporters after the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 6 game between AC Milan and Liverpool FC at the Stadio San Siro. Liverpool won 2-1 and top the group with six wins from six games. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The win keeps Liverpool’s latest remarkable run of games going. They have only lost one game all season, and have now won 11 of their last 13.

They won six out of six in their Champions League group – supposedly a ‘group of death’ – and only Ajax and potentially Bayern Munich can boast a similar record at this stage.

They’ll head into this weekend’s match against Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa in high spirits and on a good run of form, and it helps it’s a home game and they won’t have to travel.

They also do so with the majority of the first team rested and with squad players gaining vital match sharpness on a big stage, becoming part of this exceptional early form in the Champions League.

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