Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Thiago sends midfield message

Thiago Alcantara simply couldn’t help himself.

As Liverpool swept forward in the wake of Diogo Jota’s first-half opener, the ball dropped tantalisingly on the edge of the Leicester area.

Thiago, despite facing away from goal, didn’t think twice before connecting with an outrageous overhead kick that flew narrowly wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s left-hand post.

As the Anfield crowd buzzed at his ambitious attempt, the smile on the face of the Spaniard as he trotted back into position spoke volumes.

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Making his first start since suffering a hip injury in mid-December, Thiago wasn’t just happy to be back.

He was swiftly in the groove that, when consistently free of injury, has made him an integral part of Liverpool’s midfield.

His passing, as is so often the case, was on point. But what impressed just as much against Leicester City was his work off the ball, pressing hard and high and, in the second half, strong in the tackle, the propensity to go to ground too quickly a distant memory.

Indeed, any concerns over his suitability to the English game have long been banished. This was merely the latest compelling reminder.

Only his fitness is now the worry. After all, a regularly available Thiago could be the difference between success or otherwise for Liverpool throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Happy Diaz offers Mane challenge

Luis Diaz clearly doesn’t believe in wasting time.

Having contributed an assist on his debut from the bench against Cardiff City at the weekend, the £49million new signing was handed a first Liverpool start here.

And while his goal contribution statistics were untroubled this time, there was still plenty for Jurgen Klopp and Reds supporters to savour.

Inside the opening seconds, Diaz had burst into the box and while he couldn’t quite decide whether or not to pull the trigger, Leicester right-back James Justin was made aware he would be in for a difficult evening.

So it proved. Diaz, while slight of frame, isn’t easy to knock off the ball, and his tenacity made him a constant menace.

There was signs, too, of an understanding with Andy Robertson down the left, and the second half saw more of his attacking threat, having one shot deflected behind, wide with another and, after been fed by Mohamed Salah, denied by one of nine saves made by the busy Kasper Schmeichel.

Arguably the biggest cheer he received, though, was when, having initially lost the ball, he chased down and tackled Youri Tielemans to regain possession. Anfield, and Klopp, loved it.

Sadio Mane, still not quite done with celebrating Senegal’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph, will know he has a new challenger for that left wing role.

Absences prove Klopp point

The strength of the Liverpool squad could be ascertained from who wasn’t on the bench here.

Jugen Klopp joked Sadio Mane was still in bed after his exploits in Cameroon, Jordan Henderson was nursing a back problem while Divock Origi wasn’t quite ready after a lengthy absence with a knee injury.

And while Joe Gomez had missed a period of training last week having isolated following a positive coronavirus test, the centre-back’s inclusion among the substitutes would have been by no means a given.

Small wonder Klopp believes he has never before had such a plethora of options during his time in the Liverpool hotseat.

Indeed, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ibrahima Konate, James Milner and Naby Keita couldn’t get a kick here.

Such inaction, though, will surely be temporary. With the Reds still fighting on all four fronts, every player is going to be needed over the coming weeks.

And with the hectic schedule inviting rotation, it’s unlikely many players will be unhappy at a lack of minutes for too long.

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