On March 19, the Premier League announced the suspension of football across the country. Three months later, the league is set to be continued behind closed doors and, in preparation for competitive games in empty stadia, Jürgen Klopp and his back room staff have organised 11-a-side training games at Anfield.
The matches saw the Reds split their squad into two, with the likes of Alisson Becker, Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané being selected for the ‘home’ team, while the ‘away’ side, wearing the black kit, included Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho as well as Mohamed Salah.
The main focus amongst the fan base on social media was for a clip of Naby Keïta, who seems to have gained an extra yard of pace since March. The No.8 made a short burst forward in the middle of the pitch before attempting to play Curtis Jones through.
The Englishman however, was stood in an offside position and the Guinean showed great reactions by continuing his run and following his own pass. Keïta retrieved the ball and with some fantastic footwork skipped past Alexander-Arnold to successfully find Jones at the second attempt.
When Keïta found the No.48 with the second pass, the 19-year-old showed a great piece of skill as well as composure. When he picked up the ball inside the box, the midfielder took two defenders out of the game with a simple but superbly executed feint. His shot in the end was saved, but it was a sign of the unpredictability that Jones can produce.
The youngster also was able to demonstrate his crossing ability — in one of the highlights, the Liverpool-born midfielder whipped in a dangerous cross for Sadio Mané, though the No.10 was unable to get the right connection on the end of the cross.
Life in lock-down also didn’t seem to hold back Mané as he looked as quick, sharp and dangerous as ever. The Senegalese skipped past his fellow teammates on numerous occasions with one of those times resulting in an assist for Keïta. Mané also got himself a goal after the vision of Roberto Firmino found the No.10 in space behind the away side’s defence.
While it was just a friendly fixture amongst the squad, the highlights — which can be found on LFC TV GO — gave a glimpse into how ready these players are for the return to Premier League football. They were chomping at the bit and, for the most part, seemed sharp despite the lengthy stoppage in the season.
With just two wins needed to secure the Premier League title, it is important that the Reds get back to the intense level they had demonstrated across the season as quickly as possible. As Klopp said recently, “we know we are close but close is not there“.
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