Liverpool F.C. Cruise to 3-0 victory, Face Tottenham in Round of 16
Before Derby County and Liverpool met on Tuesday night at the iPro Stadium in Derbyshire, they were clearly two clubs headed in opposite directions.
The hosts, Derby County began the season with high expectations, but find themselves near the bottom of the table in the early stages of their Sky Bet Championship campaign, and hadn't won a game in their last five prior to Tuesday.
On the other side, Jürgen Klopp's men, who ended last season's league campaign with a whimper, have been mildly overshadowed in the media this summer by the arrivals of big-name coaches and players at their rivals.
Though it hasn't been without its bumps so far (see: Burnley), Liverpool have mostly played the kind of inspirational football that led to a 5-0 drubbing of Burton in the team's first EFL Cup match and see them just five points behind Premier League leaders, Manchester City.
For these reasons, the casual observer might be right in saying that the score line was expected. However, it's important to not underestimate what this performance means in the context of the rest of Liverpool's season.
Many clubs use the EFL Cup to work on the parts of their squads or tactics that don't get the needed attention in training or the Premier League. If Klopp drew up a list of goals to accomplish this game, it probably would have looked something like this:
Win, and Win Convincingly
Everything Klopp has worked on with his team this offseason seems to revolve around one major intangible: confidence. Confidence in individual ability. Confidence in the idea that teammates will be where they're supposed to be. Confidence that no matter the opposition, Liverpool have the quality to run any team ragged.
Over the past few seasons, Liverpool fans have learned to hold their breath in these kinds of cup fixtures. In 2012-13, the Reds went out in the fourth round of both the FA Cup and League Cup against Oldham and Swansea respectively. It took a THIRTY-penalty shootout for Liverpool to get past Middlesbrough in the third round of the 2014-15 League Cup. Last season, the Reds needed to win in penalties to scrape by Carlisle United at home in the third round of the League Cup. Just a few months later, they were forced into a replay after a draw at Exeter City in the third round of the FA Cup, before getting bounced by West Ham in the fifth.
It could have been very easy for the team to lack confidence going into this game against an underachieving Derby side looking to jump-start their season with a big win. From the start, however, it was obvious that this team wasn't the same as those that had come up short against lesser opposition in the past.
Philippe Coutinho was influential throughout, proving too much for the Derby defense to handle with his magical technical ability and brilliant movement. It was his corner led to Ragnar Klavan's first ever goal in a Liverpool shirt in the 24th minute to open up the game's scoring.
The Reds had many more chances in the first half and should have capitalized on at least one more occasion as Divock Origi pounced on a mistake by Derby leading to a break, but just took too long on the ball with Roberto Firmino in on goal to his right.
Shortly after the break, in the 50th minute, Coutinho made it 2-0, with a calm shot low and to the keeper's right after combining with Firmino through the middle on a quick 1-2 at the top of the Derby box.
The Reds put the game to bed just four minutes later when Coutinho played a perfectly weighted ball down the right side of the Derby penalty area, but left Origi with a tight angle beat the goalkeeper. And beat the goalkeeper he did with a cool and collected first-touch finish into the roof of the net. The kind of finish that makes fans want to see more of the man who inspired so much confidence last year.
The game was effectively over by the 54th minute, meaning Klopp could put a check mark in the box for goal number 1.
Get Divock Origi out of his funk
The 21-year-old Belgian attacker was a revelation after Klopp took over in Liverpool last season, and was often the first-choice striker ahead of Daniel Sturridge. So far this season, it's been a different story for Origi and the charismatic German gaffer has commented on him "being out of rhythm" Sometimes players, especially younger players, have to play their way into form.
In 90 minutes on the pitch Tuesday night, Origi showed signs of doing just that. During the first half, he looked as though he was struggling for form and confidence in the same way he had in his previous appearances this season, highlighted his missed opportunity to find Firmino on the break.
The second half was a much different story. It was obvious that a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders when the ball hit the net for his goal in the 54th and he played the rest of the game with the swagger and confidence he seemed to have lacked so far in the young season.
Though the result was never in doubt on Tuesday night, there will come a time this year when Liverpool will need to call on Origi to step up and produce. A performance like this one could be instrumental in insuring he's ready to answer the bell. Check number two on Klopp's list.
Build Match Fitness
They will not play as many games this year as they did last year, but Liverpool will need a full squad to meet their expectations this season. This game was an opportunity to give players coming back from injury much needed playing time so they can be ready when called upon
Loris Karius, who some believe should be starting over incumbent goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, made his competitive debut for Liverpool after being sidelined for almost two months with a broken hand. He had little to do on the night, but looked assured in goal and made an excellent slide-tackle 25 yards from his goal to break up a Derby counter right before halftime.
Danny Ings returned to the squad after a lengthy sideline stint with a torn ACL and looked lively in his 30-minute substitute appearance. Though clearly down the pecking order in terms of strikers at the club, Ings could play a vital role in several games this season.
Emre Can also continued his comeback from injury with 35 minutes of tidy football in his substitute appearance. His presence in the center of the park was a welcome sight even though he might not walk back into the starting XI given the form of the current midfield three (that's a good thing).
That's three check marks for three goals on the night for Jürgen Klopp. A successful evening all around and one that can only bring more confidence to an already-bubbling team.