Liverpool eased to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in Singapore on Friday, with Harvey Elliott catching the eye in central midfield.
Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace
Pre-season friendly (2), Singapore National Stadium
July 15, 2022
Goals: Henderson 12′, Salah 46′
Elliott impresses again
Elliott’s 2021/22 season was ruined by a broken ankle suffered last September, just when he was looking like a key player for the Reds.
The 19-year-old looks primed to return to the side this time around, however, as the early star of pre-season.
Elliott was deployed in the right-sided No. 8 role against Palace, much in the way Pep Guardiola uses Bernardo Silva, and he looked at home, offering something different to when Jordan Henderson plays there.
There is one-hundred percent conviction in everything Harvey Elliott does so far this pre-season. He’s absolutely desperate to succeed now and thus far, the team has benefitted.
— Lewis Bower (@LewisBower2021) July 15, 2022
It was the youngster who provided the assist for his captain to open the scoring and his all-round game was slick and composed, as he kept the ball in tight spaces and received it on the half-turn.
Elliott lacks the blistering speed of Mo Salah to be a force in a wide attacking role, but he looks tailor-made to bring guile as a No. 8, in an area of the pitch where many are calling for a summer addition.
Jurgen Klopp has described him as a “new signing” after recovering from such a serious setback, and he could be a regular at the beginning of the campaign.
Henderson and James Milner have never been, and will never be, the world’s most fashionable footballers, often putting industry before flair.
The veteran English pair continue to be important squad players, however, and they shone against Palace.
Henderson put Liverpool 1-0 up with a trademark curled finish almost identical to his strike at home to Brighton last season, cutting a commanding figure in a deep-lying midfield berth.
Having recently turned 32, it could be that the skipper is viewed as a more effective No. 6 than No. 8 from now on, acting as a strong deputy to Fabinho.
Meanwhile, the evergreen Milner’s versatility was out in force as Klopp used him at right-back, and he was excellent.
His energy levels and use of the ball stood out, as he again showed that age is just a number and that he could still be doing all of this at 57!
Firmino to start vs. Fulham?
Roberto Firmino hasn’t been at his best since the early months of 2020, around the time that he scored the Club World Cup-winning goal against Flamengo.
Age has caught up with the Brazilian, with injuries taking their toll, but this is possibly the freshest he has looked in some time.
Liverpool’s No. 9 looks lean and rarer to go and his influence against Palace was noticeable, as he led the line in true Firmino fashion.
He dropped deep into pockets of space, allowing room for Luis Diaz and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to get in behind, and his touch and choice of pass were more like the Firmino of old.
With Darwin Nunez still adjusting to life at his new club and Diogo Jota injured again, Liverpool’s legendary South American looks likely to start the season in the Reds’ strongest XI.
It could be an overreaction to say that we are about to see peak Firmino again – pre-season can often be misleading – but there is a vibrancy to his game that bodes well.
Davies…no, not that Davies!
For a second, did you think the lesser-spotted Ben Davies had been spotted in a Liverpool shirt?
Sorry to disappoint, but he was again nowhere to be seen, having not flown to Asia as he looks to secure a move away.
Instead, it was 18-year-old Harvey Davies who was given 30 or so minutes in Liverpool’s goal, due to Alisson and Caoimhin Kelleher’s absence through injury.
He made the most of his opportunity, showing the type of distribution demanded of goalkeepers during the Klopp era, in what was a special occasion for him.
Who knows what the future holds for Davies, and whether or not it will belong at Liverpool, but this was one for the grandkids to be bored to death about in decades to come.
More invaluable minutes for squad
Ultimately, results are largely irrelevant during pre-season, with fitness and rhythm taking precedence ahead of the new season.
Against Man United on Tuesday, Klopp used a club-record 32 players and it was the same in Singapore.
Thirteen players got an important 45 minutes in their legacy, from Diaz to Salah, with the entire team altered at half-time.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Thiago and Nunez enjoyed second-half cameos, while youngsters including Luke Chambers and Bobby Clark joined Davies in gaining minutes alongside some senior stars.
The only downside is an injury to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who pulled up before the break, but these were more invaluable minutes in the legs.
A crowd of 50,217 revealed in Liverpool’s win – next up, Austria.