Liverpool 3-0 VfB Stuttgart: Winners and losers as Reds return to action

Liverpool began a shortened pre-season by comfortably dispatching VfB Stuttgart in rain-soaked Austria. OLIVER LAWRENSON picks out the Reds’ winners and losers from the game.

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Preparations for the new season kicked off in perfect fashion as the Reds swept aside Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart with consummate ease on Saturday evening. The scoreline at the Saalfelden arena could have been even more definitive had the Reds been more clinical throughout the 90 minutes. 

Klopp decided to field two separate teams for each half of the pre-season friendly to give as many players game time in the Austrian hills. Thunder storms and a consistent downpour threatened to halt the game at several points but the players managed to withstand the weather to put in a respectable performance. 

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Here are the winners and losers from the game: 

Winners

Curtis Jones

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With Trent Alexander-Arnold at home, it was the club’s other Scouser that offered up in a sharp showing to further strengthen his case for more game time this year. Jones showed intensity throughout his display, acting as an important linchpin between the midfield and the front three. 

Throughout his 45-minute display he would retain possession with ease, glide from box to box, and spring defence into attack immediately when called upon. His main contribution came early in the first half; Jones received the ball on the edge of the opposition area, proceeded to waltz around several Stuttgart defenders, before getting to the by-line to supply Roberto Firmino with an easy finish. 

It was a mature display from the 19-year-old who has continued his fine form from the end of last season. He will be looking to put down another marker on Tuesday night against RB Salzburg in an attempt to solidify a potential starting spot for the Community Shield fixture in a weeks’ time.

Takumi Minamino

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The Japanese international has been on the periphery for much of his first eight months on Merseyside but he will be looking to make a significant jump this season. If he performs like he did on Saturday evening then Liverpool fans will have a lot to be excited about. 

The trickery and passing that he has previously displayed at RB Salzburg was clearly on show. He caused havoc in that number 10 role as he popped up around the pitch, weaving and manipulating play to his will. His distribution was particularly notable during his time on the pitch as he provided his teammates (mainly Milner, Tsimikas and Brewster) with quality to feet to initiate dangerous moves. 

This performance is a positive step for Minamino, and one that he can use as a launchpad in his Liverpool career. With another chance to impress against his former side on Tuesday, it will be the perfect opportunity to show Klopp that he can be a valid alternative to Firmino moving into the new season.

Losers

Marko Grujić

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With a couple of successful loan spells at Hertha Berlin now in the past these two pre-season games are pivotal in the short and long-term Liverpool career of Marko Grujić. Unfortunately, the first of these two opportunities have passed him by in an alarming fashion. 

With the current competition for places in the Liverpool team, the midfield is currently the most congested and hardest to force into. With the emergence of Curtis Jones adding to the pool of midfielders containing Keïta, Milner, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Grujić needed to put down a statement to show he has the quality to break into this portfolio of players. Instead he failed to make an impression, whilst Milner and Wijnaldum did the bulk of work within the engine room during his 45 minutes. 

He struggled to nullify the threat of Castro in midfield as he let the German dominate in several head-to-head moments. Once the Stuttgart midfielder was removed this should have set the Serbian free, instead he continued to restrict himself to simple passes without any attacking intent. 

It already looks like a forgone conclusion that the former Red Star Belgrade player will be leaving Merseyside during this window. The Serbian is an excellent young player who has shown that he can be a prominent force in midfield during his loan spells in the Championship and the Bundesliga. However, it looks like he will be plying his trade away from Anfield come the start of the new season.

Harvey Elliott

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The teenager has had a great start to his Anfield career after his transfer from Fulham at the start of last season. He has put in several positive performances that has had many Liverpool fans excited for the future. However, against Stuttgart, he struggled to influence the game after coming on at half-time.  

The 17-year-old just had one of those games where nothing went for him, mainly due to a complete lack of service. Ki-Jana Hoever consistently opted to retain possession and keep the ball amongst the back four, whilst the midfielders decided to filter the vast majority of their play down the left-hand side with Minamino. It was just a grind for the Englishman. 

This game will quickly be forgotten for Elliott as he will now focus on making an impression against RB Salzburg. This will be another development season for the youngster and he will have to accept this, but if Salah was to go down with an injury at all during the campaign, the winger needs to be ready for Klopp to call upon his services.


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