Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp hailed an “outstanding talent” in his ranks, and outlined the moment that facilitated his recent revival.
The Reds enter their clash with Brentford on Saturday still unbeaten in the new campaign. Thomas Frank’s side await, with the fixture looking far more difficult than many might have predicted in pre-season.
The Bees have been a tough nut to crack thus far, shipping just two goals in their first five matches.
The likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will need to be on top of their game. But should they falter, Japanese forward Takumi Minamino will be waiting in the wings on the bench.
Minamino struggled to adapt to the Premier League in his early Liverpool career. A loan stint with Southampton materialised last season, and Klopp believes the spell away did Minamino the world of good.
Minamino impressed in their EFL Cup victory over Norwich midweek. He showed a striker’s instinct when finishing first time when latching onto a second ball from a corner. And given Salah and Mane’s looming absences to the 2021 AFCON, Liverpool may be forced to rely on Minamino more than ever in January and February.
And speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, Klopp said of Minamino (via the Liverpool Echo): “He is an outstanding talent. Everything was difficult when he joined and you need to get used to the Premier League.
“It helped massively going to Southampton and he came back a different player and a different package. Players need time.”
Liverpool boast an even more formidable defensive record than Brentford having conceded just once in the league.
Hailing his defensive unit, Klopp added: “Alisson has made brilliant saves in moments. As a unit we have defended pretty well so far. No-one wanted to hear it but we have three new players in Joel, Virg and Joe.
“Palace was a new last line and we needed a clear defending attitude. We have that.”
Liverpool are set to be without both Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita for the contest. Klopp provided an update on the midfield pair.
On Thiago, the German said: “It’s not 100% clear. It’s a muscle in the calf. It’s an issue, obviously. After the international break probably. I don’t think it would be anything earlier.”
Regarding Keita, Klopp concluded: “Nothing serious but it keeps him out of Brentford, for sure. A little longer maybe, we will see. It’s painful and we have to see how he deals with it. Not cool. A good pre-season and played a lot of games but it happens.”
Liverpool future in good hands – Klopp
Meanwhile, Klopp insisted the future is bright as far as Liverpool’s academy is concerned.
16-year-old Kaide Gordon was given his senior Reds debut in the EFL Cup and showed maturity beyond his years in a wholly encouraging display.
“We had a great pre-season and lots of the kids were with us,” said Klopp. “The coaches and the staff at the academy are doing a brilliant job. Loads of real talents.
“Three played v Norwich and I was impressed, so was everyone. 16-years-old in an adult game, you don’t find thousands of people who do that.”