Pre-season got underway for both of Merseyside’s top tier clubs yesterday with Everton playing Blackpool at Bloomfield Road and Liverpool playing newly promoted German side Stuttgart in Austria which is where the training camp has been for the champions. Football teams across the world will have been anxious to try and get some sort of pre-season games organised so for Everton and Liverpool to have games sorted it was a relief.
Everton kicked off first at three o’clock with an starting eleven which was the strongest they could have put out with the likes of Jordan Pickford, Mason Holgate, Glyfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all starting. There was no Richarlison, Everton’s star man, as it was rumoured he is in quarantine having been away in Portugal. It was again another 4-4-2 set up from Carlo Ancelotti which is one fans have been used to under the Italian.
With all that said it can be described as a surprise that Everton were 3-0 down after eleven minutes. A surprise probably is an understatement. It was embarrassing. It doesn’t matter if it was a friendly or not the players yet again underperformed so it clearly is a case of nothing new. It will have been seriously alarming to Ancelotti with the new season just weeks away and especially with no new first team signings through the door.
The first goal came in the space of two minutes with Everton barely getting a touch of the ball. A lovely reverse pass was made in behind the defence as CJ Hamilton slotted the ball in the net. 1-0 down is fine early on it can happen in the first friendly but then what happened in the next 10 minutes was inexcusable. The second goal came from awful defensive shape leaving former Crystal Palace man Sullay Kaikai free to hammer the ball home. Then the third came straight from kick-off as Everton went backwards and Holgate gave it away in his own box. It came to Grant Ward who lashed it in.
Any form of positivity Everton supporters had to see their team back in action would have disappeared almost instantly. Everton eventually grew into the game and pulled it back 3-3 so there was still some desire left in them. Calvert-Lewin headed one in then Sigurdsson scored a penalty before half-time. Then with around 20 minutes left Sigurdsson scored a free-kick potentially putting himself in the shop window. Plenty of changes were made in the second half too with young left-back Nkounkou the pick of the bunch.
Fair to say there is work to do for Mr Ancelotti.
Liverpool the Premier league champions, in case you had forgotten, kicked off at five o’clock and kept the theme of strong starting elevens going with the likes of Alisson, Van Dijk, Robertson, Salah and Mane all starting to name a few.
The rain was pelting it down in Austria as Liverpool eased into a 2-0 lead in the first half. Scouser Curtis Jones started the game and made the first goal with some neat play to find Roberto Firmino who stuck it home. Both teams struggled with the conditions as there was suggestions that the game would not continue as a Stuttgart player reportedly broke his arm due to sliding into an advertisement board after a challenge with Joe Gomez.
However the game was completed and just before half-time Naby Keita made it two with some lovely combination play with Firmino and Salah. Keita was arguably the pick of the bunch in the first- half as well as Curtis Jones as the pair could add something new to the midfield in the upcoming season due to their attacking threat.
In the second-half it was a completely new eleven and the game was played out at a good speed for both sides to get fitness up. Liverpool added another goal to their two from the first half as Brewster blasted one in from close range. Minamino looked very sharp in attacking areas which is very positive plus young centre back Billy Koumetio came on for around 25 minutes and was superb whilst also showing everyone how much of a unit he is.
New man Konstas Tsimikas got the second half and showed good attacking intent whilst simultaneously being alert defensively even if he did get a shout of ‘oh Konstas f**king hell’ from Milner for not passing the ball to him.
No better way to settle in I suppose, business as usual for Klopp’s reds.
Written by Elliot Thompson