In the past 10 days, Liverpool has played both legs of a Europa League contest against Gomel (a club from Belarus) and faced Bayer Leverkusen in a friendly in Anfield. That stretch of matches doesn’t provide a lot in terms of quality opposition, but we can still discern a few things from the performances and Liverpool fans won’t complain about the results. The club that struggled to score goals last year has put six in the net in the last two matches so they are heading into the season with some confidence.
Gomel 0 Liverpool 1
Starting XI: Brad Jones, Jamie Carragher, Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Jay Spearing, Jordan Henderson, Fabio Borini
The first leg in Belarus left a lot to be desired and Liverpool was lucky to get a result. Joe Cole injured his hamstring just past the 10 minute mark and the club never got going. For a change it was the opposition that got victimized by the woodwork and failing to score on several golden opportunities. Stewart Downing didn’t miss when he had his chance and LFC got an away goal and a 1-0 victory.
Liverpool 3 Gomel 0
Starting XI: Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey, Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini
At Anfield, the club got a comfortable 3-0 result to advance 4-0 on aggregate. Fabio Borini opened his Liverpool account with a brilliant smash of a clever Luis Suarez pass. The controversial Uruguayan also set up captain Steven Gerrard for the second goal and Glen Johnson finished off the scoring with a left-footed strike from the edge of the box.
The Starting XI in this match is probably what Brendan Rodgers envisions for the ideal lineup, with the possible swap of Jonjo Shelvey for Joe Allen.
Liverpool 3 Bayer Leverkusen 1
Starting XI: Pepe Reina, Jose Enrique, Martin Kelly, Jamie Carragher, Sebastian Coates, Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez
This was another convincing performance, albeit in a friendly. Raheem Sterling opened the scoring with a brilliant strike for his first Liverpool goal. For a club that has invested poorly the past few years, having a homegrown 17-year old forward as talented as Sterling on their roster is going to pay huge dividends. Lucas actually got a goal in this one, but don’t think he suddenly has an offensive role or anything. He lucked into an easy tap-in after a crafty free kick and deflection. Andy Carroll was subbed in and got the final LFC goal on a low shot the keeper probably should have saved. Liverpool lucked into exactly zero goals last year and you can sense the club might be starting to feel some karmic payback is in order. The German club’s lone goal came on a brilliant strike that Pepe Reina was helpless to defend after Jamie Carragher let his man find too much space and Coates was unable to provide back-up cover.
Pepe Reina – He has excellent possession skills and fits nicely into Rodgers’ system. Reina is the undisputed starter as long as he is healthy but the club must feel pretty good about quality back-up Brad Jones.
Jose Enrique – He’s starting to look energized and comfortable in the new system, which allows him to move forward and set up more scoring chances. He assisted on the Sterling goal and should see some improved returns this year.
Jamie Carragher – The Liverpool legend has had a brilliant career but has lost more than a step and simply can’t stay with elite offensive threats.
Sebastian Coates – He looked nowhere near ready for prime time. Nearly every scoring chance Bayer Levenkusen had was a result of an adventure started by Coates.
Daniel Agger – It should be more of the same from one of the league’s best central defensive pairings as long as Man City doesn’t meet Liverpool’s asking price. Agger only appeared in one of the three matches, which raises some questions. If he does leave in the transfer window, it is a huge downgrade for the club as no one looks ready to replace him.
Martin Kelly – Maybe that discredits Kelly a little too much because he’s the most ready replacement for Agger, but he has played more as an outside defender the past few seasons and it would still be a downgrade.
Lucas – In spite of his goal, he has virtually no fantasy value but his importance to the club can’t be exaggerated. The good news for Liverpool is that he is clearly fit, recovered from his injury, and ready to start.
Steven Gerrard – What else can be said? He’s on the wrong side of his prime but he’s a special player with enough gas left in the tank to be extremely productive if the club can hit their stride. Liverpool’s struggles last season can be directly linked to the amount of games Lucas and Gerrard missed.
Joe Cole – A hamstring injury has him sidelined, but even taking that out of the picture his performances haven’t been promising. He looks more like the player that never lived up to his potential in the EPL than the one who was getting rave reviews at Lille last year.
Charlie Adam – His game doesn’t fit with the manager’s scheme and his reckless play leads to red cards at the worst possible time. Those are two pretty big strikes against him so don’t expect to see much of Adam in the starting lineup.
Stewart Downing – He could definitely put his miserable debut season beyond him and make some plays from the right side this year. He scored against Gomel and he sent his share of crosses into the box in all these matches.
Jordan Henderson – His omission from the lineup in the most recent two matches doesn’t bode well for his first-team chances. It looks like Rodgers might use him as a sub until he can prove himself a bit more. He’s still young so there’s time to make him a project.
Andy Carroll – His goal was slightly more keeper error than quality strike, but going back to the end of last season he is showing a knack for getting the ball to the back of the net one way or another. There’s still no guarantee he’s going to survive the transfer window, but his determination to stay with the club is making him a fan favorite and he does bring some unique skills to the table. As long as he stays with the club, he’ll probably just be a potent option to come off the bench in times of desperation and there’s no shame in that. In fact, most of the top clubs have such an option such as Javier Hernandez at Man Utd and Edin Dzeko at Man City.
Fabio Borini – Clearly in favor with Rodgers, the new coach’s first signing paid immediate dividends with a goal against Gomel. It looks like he’s going to be a regular starter up front alongside Suarez.
Luis Suarez – He was the best player on the pitch in the two matches where he featured. Somehow, he still can’t seem to score, but it was his effort and creativity that led to nearly every Liverpool goal and scoring chance. A new contract seems to have given him added confidence and security so maybe he can put last year’s nightmares behind him.