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We rejoice in the success of our young winners and snicker at the notion of a Group of Death.
Tyler Morton: It’s been a quick ascent for the 19-year old this season, from making his first team debut as a substitute in the League Cup two months ago, through his first start, first Premier League appearance, and tonight, his Champions League debut at a packed Anfield in a showcase contest.
Beyond the feel-good story of a childhood fan making the first team, Morton was really good! Featuring alongside his idol Thiago — and getting front row seats to the Spaniard’s obscene 30-yard daisy-cutting volley — the teenager did not for a second look out of place, displaying tremendous spatial awareness, intelligent movement, crisp directional touches and accomplished passing throughout.
He’s not exactly a threat to Fabinho quite yet, and a lack of top-shelf athleticism may place a hard ceiling on his final form, but like Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott before him, Morton has proven himself capable of stepping in and doing a job for the team, which, in a season that looks likely to creep close to the 60-game mark, is an invaluable asset for Jürgen Klopp.
Fresh Legs: Liverpool are in the beginning stages of a 13-game run over a total of 43 days. As such, the ability to rotate the squad and keep the legs of your starters as fresh as possible could prove absolutely crucial down the stretch, and with two Champions League dead rubbers and a League Cup match in that stretch, one expects Klopp to make full use of his squad depth.
The German made four changes from the side that put Arsenal to the sword on Saturday, and made sure to substitute Thiago, Salah and Mané as soon as the second goal was scored in order to give the lads some minutes off while still keeping them in rhythm. It’s smart squad management and hopefully enough to keep the Reds humming along at their current, impressive pace.
The Group of Death: The Reds really put that designation to shame, didn’t they. Winning five straight in what was broadly considered the toughest group across the board in the competition and securing top spot at the earliest possible juncture, scoring 15 goals along the way, Liverpool have quite simply shown that there are levels to this, and they are at the very top one.
The knockout rounds are far less predictable than the group stage, and even winning the group does not inoculate the Reds from potentially facing off with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid in the round of 16, but with the quality Klopp’s men have shown so far this season, they should inspire more fear in any prospective opponents than they’ll feel themselves.
Neco: Trent Alexander-Arnold is the best right-back in the world. He’s critical to the way Liverpool play. He’s a scouser, a future captain, and certain to feature on top ten, five and three lists over club greats in the decades to come. Replacing him, even for a single game, is a tall task for anyone, but especially for Neco Williams.
The Welsh fullback is a fairly talented player, and is coming off a tremendous international break, where he scored and generally caused havoc for Wales’ opponents as they secured a playoff spot in their World Cup qualification bid, but he also represents, without a doubt, the biggest drop-off in talent from first to second choice in the Liverpool squad.
His lack of attacking production can be mitigated by talent in other areas of the pitch against lesser opposition, but it is fast becoming apparent that keeping Trent fit and ready to play throughout the season is going to be of prime importance to Liverpool if they are to succeed in their ambitious goals.
What Happens Next
Games are coming thick and fast every three to four days from now until the new year starts, so the Reds will have to recovery quickly in order to prepare for a visit from Ralph Hassenhüttl’s Southampton on Saturday, before they travel across the park to partake in the first Merseyside derby of the year next Wednesday.