Liverpool’s final match before their crunch Community Shield showdown against Manchester City ended in a 1-0 preseason defeat at RB Salzburg.
The Reds hammered RB Leipzig 5-0 last week, but they were unable to breakthrough a stubborn home resistance in the second half.
After gilt-edged misses from Darwin Nunez and Harvey Elliott, it was Benjamin Sesko who ruthlessly put the home side in front, after getting the better of Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate on the break.
Jurgen Klopp opted for a raft of changes in the second 45 minutes, but Salzburg goalkeeper Nico Mantl and his defence stood up to the challenge, to hand the Premier League giants a frustrating night at the Red Bull Arena.
Van Dijk-less defence exposed by Salzburg attack
Despite RB Salzburg offering a sporadic attacking threat, the speed and clever movement of Noah Okafor, and match winner Sesko, caused problems for Konate and Joe Gomez.
Klopp started his two younger centre-backs in Austria and they endured a mixed first 45 minutes at the Red Bull Arena.
Gomez’s poor header was almost punished by Sesko, and his positioning — plus Konate’s recovery pace — were exposed on the Slovenian’s goal.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 27, 2022
Without van Dijk alongside one of them — the Dutchman entered in the 60th minute — neither player took responsibility against a tricky attack, and the duo are expected to start on the bench against City at the King Power Stadium, site of the Community Shield match against Man City.
Nunez substitution hints at Klopp’s plan
Nunez was never going to match his incredible four-goal haul from the Leipzig outing, but his 45-minute cameo shows there is still work to be done, as he settles into Klopp’s Liverpool.
Klopp has dismissed criticism of the Uruguayan in preseason with the majority of his performances suggesting the former Benfica striker will be a hit at Anfield.
Despite hitting the woodwork, and spearheading the Liverpool attack, Klopp chose to withdraw him at half-time, as he continues to acclimatise to the squad.
As Klopp has previously shown with star names including Fabinho and Thiago, he will not rush new signings into the starting XI before they meet his high standards of conditioning and performance, and Nunez has some way to go to nail down a starting spot.
Late changes indicate Community Shield options
Klopp has gradually edged towards naming stronger starting XI’s, as Liverpool’s preseason campaign has gathered pace, with a familiar look to the team that closes out the 90 minutes.
Eight changes on the hour mark indicates his thinking ahead of their showdown with Pep Guardiola’s City on July 30 with the team at full-time likely to be very similar to the one which starts against the Premier League champions.