By Coral Barry
Jordan Ibe can be better than Raheem Sterling, Mamadou Sakho is a man to build a defence upon and other things we learned from Rubin Kazan 0 Liverpool 1.
Ibe can has more potential than Sterling
Restored to the starting line-up as Jurgen Klopp rested first choice attacking midfielders Adam Lallana and Coutinho, the 19-year-old grasped his chance to impress. A tireless menace on the right flank all game, Ibe bookended an explosive performance with a wonderfully taken first Liverpool goal. He has a job on his hands to convince Klopp he should be a regular Premier League starter, but Ibe has finally shaken off his break-through season hangover. Many Liverpool observers regard him as having greater potential than Raheem Sterling. More performances like this and the evidence that Ibe can surpass the Manchester City winger will continue to grow.
Klopp fancies European tilt
Just as he did two weeks ago in the reverse home fixture against the Russians, Klopp took no chances with his Europa League selections. Keen not to lose the momentum of the exhilirating win at Chelsea, only four changes were made by the manager to prove that the Premier League is not his one and only priority. Each of Liverpool’s starting eleven at Stamford Bridge made the 5000km-plus journey to Russia and the visitors got their reward with a much-needed three points after three consecutive draws in the competition. The league is not the be all and end all for Klopp.
Sakho is Liverpool’s best centre-back
Liverpool’s softness at the back is well established – they have just five clean sheets in 20 games -but Sakho is emerging as the new red rock. The Frenchman’s aggression and anticipation have made him a cult figure in the Anfield stands, but his passing abilities are just as impressive. It was his lofted pinpoint pass that found Christian Benteke for Liverpool’s second goal against Chelsea on Saturday and tonight he provided a succession of pinpoint balls out from the back. A modern-day defender, capable of force and finesse, he might well be the only centre-back left when Klopp’s squad culling begins.
Firmino needs to up his game
After drawing praise from Jamie Carragher for his dazzling performance against Bournemouth a week ago, Firmino has not managed to reproduce that form against more exacting opponents. The Brazilian had the odd nice touch against Kazan but offered little in the way of genuine cutting edge. None of his four shots during the game came close to a goal. The Brazilian’s potential is there for all to see, but he must reach the incredible Hoffenheim heights of last season to be a Premier League regular.
Benteke needs Coutinho’s magic
The Belgian powerhouse started his first game in six weeks, but his impact did not match his two recent goalscoring appearances as a second-half substitute. It was noticeable how Christian Benteke missed Coutinho, who was an unused substitute tonight. Without the little magician’s movement and vision to feed off, Benteke was marked out of the game and left frustrated. The 24-year-old was a focal point of the attack – that will always be the case when he plays – but is most threatening with Coutinho behind him providing through balls and creating space.