Darwin Nunez is fast becoming the striker Liverpool always hoped he would.
The international break is not a football fans' favourite time of the year, as it means missing out on watching their club win matches.
However, for some players, the international break can be used to gain confidence and find form to take back into club football.
For Darwin Nuñez, this was exactly the case in October.
After coolly slotting home a last-minute penalty to earn a draw in Colombia last week, Nuñez helped Uruguay recorded a historic 2-0 victory over Brazil – scoring a header past Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson and assisting the second goal.
Nuñez was a constant nuisance for all of Brazil throughout the match, but in particular Arsenal defender Gabriel. The centre half was seen regularly trying to get in the head of Liverpool's number nine to little avail, with Nuñez showing his maturity by simply laughing the attempts off.
🔥 𝐓𝐨𝐜𝐨, 𝐭𝐨𝐜𝐨, 𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐨 𝐲 𝐠𝐨𝐥
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) October 18, 2023
A change came in that famous match at Newcastle United when Nuñez came off the bench for 10-man Liverpool and fired a double to take an unlikely three points back to Merseyside.
That day proved a turning point for the striker who has since enjoyed a good run of form with goals and assists continuing to flow. The Reds' number nine has five goal involvements in his seven Premier League matches this season (three goals and two assists) – a pretty healthy return so far.
What’s more, however, is the change in his all-round performances. Nuñez has adapted to the Klopp style of play and is now much more capable of helping the Reds with their build-up play.
The striker suffered cramps at the end of the hard-fought win over Uruguay, but still trained with Liverpool on Thursday morning ahead of Saturday’s Premier League match with neighbours Everton.
Although Liverpool go into the match as huge favourites, a pressure also comes with that tag and the expectation is that the Reds put the blue side of Merseyside to the sword at Anfield.
With Gakpo only just returned from injury, Nuñez will likely play a key part for Liverpool on Saturday.
Jota may well get the nod to start up front given his freshness, but the former Benfica man is sure to enter the action at some stage.
Nuñez is made for these occasions. A fiery derby is what he loves and will be at his most fired-up heading into Saturday.
The fans on the terraces will be chanting his name, willing him to put the ball in the back of Jordan Pickford’s goal.
One thing is for sure and that is that Sean Dyche’s defenders will be working extremely hard to get under his skin. Whether that be James Tarkowski or Michael Keane, they will know Nuñez has a temper. But, as he displayed for his nation, Nuñez has matured since being shown a red card for lashing out during his Anfield debut for Liverpool last term.
Liverpool's chaos king looks more controlled, more intelligent on the ball and more confident in himself than he ever has before.
Goals in the game against Everton will only further enhance his confidence and the love the Liverpool fans already have for him.
The Reds go into Saturday’s Merseyside derby following dropped points in their last two outings and know this fixture is a must win if they want to challenge for the title come the end of the season.
Everton's record at Anfield is poor but Dyche has won at Liverpool's home before knows how to make matters difficult for opposing teams with a bruising physical battle.
Everton will try every trick in the book to unsettle Liverpool, but – if recent showings are anything to go by – those tricks may not work on Nuñez at least.