Liverpool are through to the final of the Audi Cup pre-season tournament, contested against Atletico Madrid today, after a convincing 3-0 victory over hosts Bayern Munich.
Jurgen Klopp’s side’s win was characteristic of the German’s brand of football, with Liverpool holding off Bayern’s spells of possession for long periods of the game before counter-attacking with speed through Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.
Mane opened the scoring after just five minutes when he latched on to Roberto Firmino’s pass, whilst Salah doubled the lead ten minutes before the break. Daniel Sturridge wrapped up proceedings with a lobbed finish before going off injured soon after.
Here are five things we learned from the Allianz Arena.
1 Daniel Sturridge is as frustrating as ever
It must be so frustrating to be Daniel Sturridge. The striker just can’t seem to prevent injury and seemingly injured himself in scoring his goal. Having come on as a second half substitute, he produced the most brilliant yet annoying moment of the Reds’ pre-season.
Freed into space, the 27-year-old coolly lobbed the ball over Sven Ulreich’s head into the net for the third of the night, but immediately hobbled over to the side-lines and was hauled off.
Despite the injury, Sturridge’s name was conspicuously left out of the starting XI in favour of an attacking quadrant of Philippe Coutinho, Firmino, Salah and Mane.
A strong pre-season campaign and a few positive words from Klopp doesn’t seem to have changed one fact; Sturridge isn’t in the perceived best XI. His future was already in doubt and another injury has done nothing to ease this.
2 Concern for Carlo Ancelotti
Barring a 9-1 demolition of FSV Erlangen-Bruck and a dominant half against Chelsea in which they went 3-0 up, there’s been little to smile about for Carlo Ancelotti and it’s concerning going into the DFL-Supercup against Borussia Dortmund this weekend.
Bayern have been guilty of losing to Arsenal, albeit on penalties, but what’s most worrying is the convincing defeats at the hands of both Milan clubs, as well as Liverpool last night.
Mats Hummels and Javi Martinez seemed to struggle against the speed of Liverpool’s counter-attack, an issue of note given how teams are likely to play against Bayern, whilst Robert Lewandowski was isolated. There was a lack of cohesion and something needs to change prior to the start of the Bundesliga.
3 Liverpool's back-ups hold their own
There are long-term doubts over the future of both Loris Karius and Alberto Moreno, whilst Klopp has stressed that Trent Alexander-Arnold needs to defend with more maturity before he can be considered a first team regular, but all three impressed against Bayern Munich.
Karius had little to do, but on two occasions his smart positioning helped him claim lofted passes from deep over the back four before Lewandowski got there. Karius isn’t without his heart-in-the-mouth moments and did, however, allow a back-pass to slip under his boot, though he recovered.
Moreno was involved in the Reds’ counter-attacking goals, but doubts loom over his ability to defend. Given the right circumstances, though, the Spaniard demonstrated he still has something to offer.
Alexander-Arnold was perhaps the most impressive. Facing David Alaba and Franck Ribery, he held his own for most of the game, though did require Firmino to track back and help on occasion. He won’t be facing this level of quality in the Premier League frequently and we could see him feature more often.
4 Salah and Mane look dangerous on the counter
The arrival of Mo Salah over the summer was a justified cause for excitement, such is his quality, but it threatened to disrupt the form of Sadio Mane, arguably Liverpool’s best player in 2016/17. Given they both play on the right wing, one would be shunted out wide.
Last night, it was the Egyptian that started on the right flank, Mane on the left, and it took them only a quarter of an hour to announce themselves as a feared duo.
Both found the net, Mane with his weaker foot and Salah with his head, and looked a constant threat throughout the game.
What would have pleased Klopp the most, though, is their ability to constantly get in behind the Bayern defence with their speed and intelligent movement. The pair used their pace to terrorise the high Bayern defence and it’s reason for Liverpool fans to get excited for the start of the season.
5 Coutinho's new role
With a front three of Firmino, Salah and Mane, it seems as though Klopp is preparing for the departure of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, once Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain officially goes through.
Or is he…?
Coutinho started against Bayern, but in a deeper role, operating more as a number eight than the wide playmaker we’re used to seeing. Switching the Brazilian from his wide role to the centre of the midfield has given Liverpool a new dimension to their game.
It’s a position from which he gets a better view of play, able to therefore use his intelligent vision to accurately distribute the ball, either short or long, and create opportunities for the pacey forwards.
Coutinho is best with the ball at his feet and this positional change gets him in possession as much as possible as the team’s puppet-master.
The only issue is for how long it will last…
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