3 things to look out for when Liverpool open their Europa League campaign against LASK

Dan Vassie
10 months ago

Liverpool have had a stellar start to Premier League, and now it's time for the squad to continue their form in Europe as they gear up for the Europa League opener against LASK on Thursday evening.

So far this season, the Reds have played five games, drawn one and won four, which when considering the disastrous start to the 2022/23 campaign, is certainly a major improvement.

That's not to say the club has been perfect. In fact, Liverpool have conceded first in three of their five league games, kept just one clean sheet and have had two red cards (even if one was rescinded) – so, there is a lot to work on.

READ MORE: Who are LASK? Opposition analysis ahead of Europa League opener

Thursday's Europa League game should provide the Reds an opportunity for a different kind of challenge, and Jurgen Klopp must now find the balance between picking his teams for a Thursday-Sunday schedule.

Here are three things to look out for during the Europa League opener.


GRAVENBERCH'S FIRST START?

© Proshots - Ryan Gravenberch

The only one of Liverpool's new midfield quartet to not make a competitive start for the club so far is Ryan Gravenberch, and this European night could provide the perfect environment for the Dutchman to demonstrate why he the Reds fought for his signature until Deadline Day.

Since arriving from Bayern Munich, fans have been eager to see the 21-year-old in action, with expectations raised by reports that Klopp and Liverpool have had an eye on the Dutchman since his Ajax days.

However, a late registration for the Aston Villa game and a poorly-timed international break meant that fans had to wait more than two weeks to see Gravenberch on the pitch – and when he did finally make a 10-minute cameo against Wolves, the midfielder very nearly scored on his debut.

Now, with Klopp anticipated to make several changes to his starting XI against LASK, Gravenberch could be in line for his first start.

READ MORE: Predicting Liverpool's starting XI to face LASK

Dominik Szoboszlai has played every single minute for Liverpool so far this season, and Alexis Mac Allister looked tired in the first half against Wolves due to his involvement with Argentina just days prior, and both could ultimately be rested for Sunday's clash with West Ham.

With stiff competition for places in Klopp's all-new midfield, the Europa League may be a key battleground for Gravenberch to impresses.

A CHANCE FOR ACADEMY STARS?

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 7, 2023: Liverpool's Ben Doak during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and SV Darmstadt 98 at Deepdale. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While supporters would have understandably hoped that Liverpool were going to pull it out of the bag and qualify for the Champions League last season, being in the Europa League is still its benefits.

The likes of Ben Doak, Jarell Quansah and Bobby Clark will almost certainly get minutes in the early stages – though the latter won't be involved this Thursday, having featured in the EFL Trophy win for the Under-21s this week.

Playing in Europe at such young ages would be invaluable experience to the trio as they look to make a name for themselves and solidify their positions in Klopp's first-team squad.

17-year-old Scottish winger Doak, in particular, is one of the most exciting youngsters in world football, and looks set to go from strength to strength having signed a new long-term contract on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Ben Doak – what the youngster's Scotland Under-21 debut could mean for Liverpool future

Klopp has suggested he won't field a weakened team in the Europa League this season, but expect to see Doak rise to the challenge of earning game time as Mohamed Salah's understudy in games where the Egyptian might reasonably be rested.

RETURN OF STEFAN BAJCETIC

Stefan Bajcetic, ProShots

On the topic of youngsters, perhaps Liverpool's brightest is a player that has already made his breakthrough into the first-team, and is regarded by many as a starter when fully fit.

Stefan Bajcetic was arguably a top three player for the Reds last season and the club's best midfielder before he tore his adductor muscle in March.

After spending almost six months on the sidelines, Bajcetic has featured on the bench in Liverpool's last two fixtures and even made an appearance for Spain's U21s during the international break.

Thursday's clash with LASK could be the perfect time to reintroduce the 18-year-old midfielder, as he looks to prove why the Reds didn't need to go all in for an expensive new 'number six' after all this summer.

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