Solanke ahead of Origi in pecking order and other things learned as Liverpool beat Athletic Bilbao

Alex Rea 5/08/2017
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Liverpool ended their globetrotting pre-season unbeaten after easing to a 3-1 win over Spanish side Athletic Bilbao at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side warmed up for next Saturday’s Premier League opener at Watford with an emphatic friendly victory, leaving them unbeaten inside 90 minutes over eight games that included a 3-0 win over German champions Bayern Munich.

The Reds went into an early lead through Roberto Firmino, before Inaki Williams levelled before half time.

Klopp made 10 changes at the break, and teenage duo Ben Woodburn and Dominic Solanke added two more goals to seal victory.

Here are three things learned from the pre-season run out.

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AUTHORITATIVE ATTACK, DISHEVELED DEFENCE

It’s a familiar narrative but the contrary nature of Liverpool’s back and forward line is, well, backwards and forward.

On the attack, the Reds surge with authority and aggression, speed and skill because ultimately they know what they’re doing going forward.

But defensively, it’s a complete juxtaposition. Much like last season, Dejan Lovren was frequently caught out of position and playing catch up to make amends, when he didn’t Bilbao pounced as was the case with their equaliser.

It’s not just Lovren, though, the whole back line lacks urgency, they are blind to danger until it smacks them in the face, unless, of course, they are creating the trouble for themselves with careless passing.

It’s mystifying that they have failed to repair the one issue which is so blindingly obvious. Signing Virgil van Dijk from Southampton could be their last acquisition of the summer and it would certainly represent their most important.

SOLANKE IS AHEAD OF ORIGI

Liverpool’s starting front four is frightful. Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino scream dynamism and fluidity, giving Liverpool fans plenty to shout about.

Behind that fantastic four, Liverpool are blessed with quality alternative options and the best of lot is Dominic Solanke.

The 19-year-old was introduced at half-time as Klopp changed his entire outfield from the first 45 and he was undoubtedly the standout.

His hold-up play was strong and his distribution smart and while Divock Origi was the chief attacking option from the bench last season, Solanke may well have superseded him.

The summer signing cut-back brilliantly for Ben Woodburn’s goal, almost forced an own goal with another cross and then produced a headed finish a twin to his one against Hertha Berlin.

He’s a mobile target man and one who has made a big impression during the pre-season outings.

CAN HAS SOME CATCHING UP TO DO

Emre Can’s summer has been dominated by talk surrounding his future as he enters the final year of his Liverpool contract.

It’s easy to see why the club is very enthusiastic about his development and are keen to see the Germany international put pen to paper on a new deal.

What is clear as well, is that the 23-year-old is still a work in progress and this next season will be a vital one in his evolution.

Some questionable decision making hallmarked his first-half performance and having arrived late to pre-season following an extended break from a Confederations Cup campaign with Germany, it’s obvious he remains way off the pace and rhythm.

His positional discipline for a defensive midfielder is still dubious, which is frustrating because he offers plenty of quality on the ball.

There is work to be done for Can, both in the short and long term.

Emre Can

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du LaLiga Tour Day 1: Training in Spain and preparing for opening match against Cadiz

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The very best teenage talent in the UAE have come together under the du LaLiga High Performance Centre in a mission to achieve their potential and become professional footballers.

The starlets all have a huge chance in Marbella this month as they aim to impress La Liga scouts and earn trials at clubs while playing top-class LaLiga academies.

Sport360° are there for the first week of the tour – check out the best of Day 1 below.

MOVING MOUNTAINS IN MARBELLA

Enjoying a pre-season tour on the south coast of Spain, under perfect temperatures and with world-class training facilities just 10 minutes away from the hotel – only a small portion of professional footballers spend their summers like this.

And for a bunch of talented teenagers, many of whom 18 months ago spent most of their time kicking a football around on a street, it is an opportunity that they are intent on seizing with both hands.

The group – separated into Under-18 and Under-16 squads – will play academies from Malaga, Sevilla, Granada, Real Betis and Cadiz, who are first up on Saturday (August 5).

Marbella, though, is the base for the camp and European giants Bayern Munich, Southampton of the Premier League, Turkey’s Besiktas and the UAE’s very own Al-Wasl are just some of the teams who have recently made use of the city’s perfect conditions.

At Marbella Football Centre – a short bus ride from the heart of the city – four perfectly manicured full-sized football pitches against a beautiful, mountainous backdrop are at duFC LaLiga’s disposal.

Combine that with a state-of-the-art gym and the impressionable youngsters can’t help but be inspired.

“The facilities are the best in Europe and many great teams practise here,” said head coach Rafael Gil. “The grass is very nice, and the weather in Marbella is normally 20 to 30 degrees celsius.

“We have had really good preparation. Before coming to Spain the players had an off-season programme to follow, and you can see the difference between the guys who have been working and not working! But everyone is working hard here.”

FIGHTING FIT

Before joining duFC La Liga HPC, gym work would have been one of the furthest things from the minds of players who are most comfortable with the ball at their feet.

But being on the ball is just one part of the regimen of a professional football player. There’s no point being the best technician on the pitch if you lack the power to compete and the stamina to keep up.

It’s a good job then that the tour includes two LaLiga-certified strength and conditioning coaches, Marcos Fernandez and Juan Ramon Zambrana, who ensure a right balance is struck for bodies that are still growing.

Apart from match and recovery days, both squads engage in morning and evening training sessions at the Marbella Football Centre – for roughly three-and-a-half hours in total – and alternate between pitch and gym work.

MISSION CADIZ

Cadiz, a two-hour trip from Marbella, are currently in La Liga 2 but have a rich tradition of producing talent of their own.

Suso is one of the city’s best-known exports, and has risen to become one of AC Milan’s brightest stars after starting his youth career with Cadiz.

It is a challenging first test for du LaLiga HPC – especially after only being in the country for three days – but Gil is confident they can hit the ground running.

“I think the players can put on their best show,” Gil added. They have had a very good attitude in training and in the match I think they will be the same. The team will show its quality.

“They have improved a lot, especially with their tactics. The team now play together as one, defend in blocks. A match they would have lost heavily last year, I think now will be much tighter.”

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Barcelona star Lionel Messi's new adidas Nemeziz Ocean Storm boots are making waves

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Adidas are making waves and taking the football boot market by storm with the latest colourway for their slick ‘Nemeziz’ collection.

Fresh on the back of dropping their striking Nemeziz debut release earlier this year, the premier bootmaker has released the Ocean Storm 17+ Agility pack which you may have already seen on the feet of Barcelona star Lionel Messi as well as Liverpool playmaker Roberto Firmino and Paris Saint-Germain winger Julian Draxler.

They are truly taking football boots into a new era with a marriage of style and support. Agility is the buzzword for the Ocean Storm and unique features such as the ‘AGILITYBANDAGE’ and the revolutionary ‘TORSIONTAPES’ technology keep the feet stabilised for the ultimate fit.

Continuing the trend of high-tech features, the ‘TORSIONFRAME’ outsole is an ultra-lightweight construction and combined with the ‘TORSIONRIBS’ they provide dynamic push off support.

Basically, every minute detail is given attention to ensure the player has soft direct touch and a lightweight, adaptable feel.

Now, to the most important part – the look.

Ergonomically the boots are slip-on comfortable but from an aesthetic point of view they are just straight up sick. A dark blue and turquoise trim alongside the classic three stripes in yellow is a sweet mix.

Roberto Firmino with the Ocean Storm boots

The Ocean Storm Nemeziz collection is available in the region right now for Dh995 and can be bought on adidas.ae and adidas retail stores across the country.

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