Liverpool have won their opening two Europa League fixtures over LASK and Union Saint-Gilloise. However, neither match was as straightforward as many would have expected. The Reds are learning the unique challenge that Thursday football poses.
When the group draw was made it was extremely favorable for Liverpool. While they have gotten the maximum points on offer thus far, they have probably felt more pressure than they would have wanted.
LASK took an early lead and held it into the second half in Austria. A second half flurry for Liverpool saw them come out 3-1 winners.
However, it came via a Darwin penalty, an absolute world class cross and finish between Ryan Gravenberch and Luis Diaz before Klopp brought on Mo Salah to finish the deal.
Liverpool have struggled almost with the cliché of playing with your food.
They have yet to truly put the hammer down on either opponent thus far and there have been more than one nervy occasion.
In yesterday’s match with Union SG, Liverpool were wasteful and could have had a much wider margin of victory. As it were, the Belgian side proved to be a worthy opponent for the Anfield faithful as they fought bravely down to the last.
A couple of goals at the end of each half was the difference. Yet in-between, they put some pressure on Liverpool and could have taken some chances of their own.
I think Jurgen Klopp has done a good job with his lineup rotation for these Thursday-Sunday turnarounds even dealing with some significant injuries. It’s a unique balance that he must find.
As the season progresses and the club hopefully gets deeper into the competition, this rotation will become harder and harder. Niggling injuries will inevitably pop up and the depth of the squad will surely be tested.
With four more matches left in the group stage, Liverpool will continue to learn on the fly about handling the unique pressures and stresses that come from the Europa League.
It’s almost a bit of an equalizer for the smaller clubs that can take advantage of the bigger clubs loaded fixture lists.
Looking ahead, the Reds are clearly one of the most talented teams in this field.
However, they have already seen it will take more than just talent to conquer the unique beast that is the Europa League.
They have the perfect blend of veteran leadership and youth in addition to one of the better managers in world football to handle this. Let’s see if they can continue this unique and fulfilling journey.