Liverpool's fourth preseason game of the summer saw them take on Olympiakos, where they picked up a 1-0 victory, their second win of the summer.
The Reds handed first run-outs to a number of players involved at the World Cup, and one of those, Raheem Sterling, scored the fifth-minute goal, which turned out to be the winner.
As usual, we're keeping up with everything surrounding the club's buildup to the 2014-15 campaign by focusing on Brendan Rodgers' tactics in the game and two key players, this time around looking at debutant Lazar Markovic and right-back Glen Johnson.
Once more, Brendan Rodgers went with a 4-3-3 starting shape which saw the wide forwards try to cut infield and support the lone front man. With no Luis Suarez about the place now, in that system, it becomes vital that the wide forwards and central midfielders do enough to occupy the "No. 10 space" at times and also run beyond the striker—Daniel Sturridge on this occasion—when he comes deep.
It didn't really happen for the Reds, and as such, they looked a little bereft of fluidity and passing options at times, especially in the first half.
Markovic played from the left, Sterling from the right, while Emre Can and Jordan Henderson were paired centrally ahead of Steven Gerrard—the trio which could certainly open the season as Liverpool's first-choice midfield. The more advanced duo enabled good pressing and pressure on Olympiakos out of possession, though didn't perhaps do quite enough to help the team dominate the game with the ball.
Out of the four full-backs who featured during the game, Jack Robinson was by far the most adventurous and offensive-minded, being quick to fly down the left in the second half and try to set up a few moves with a range of crosses. Martin Kelly was strongest defensively.
Lucas and Joe Allen both came into midfield in the second half, and both were guilty of spurning possession with poor decision-making on the ball, with the former booked for a customary poor challenge and the latter almost gifting an equaliser with a sloppy pass.
In attack, the addition of Philippe Coutinho for the second 45 minutes on the left saw some good link up play on that side of the pitch, though all-round creativity was a little lacking from the Reds.
Making his debut and sporting the No. 50 shirt, Markovic played from the left side of the Reds' attack and got himself a couple of early touches. He was not, however, hugely involved in the game in the opening stages.
It took 20 minutes for him to really be used as an outlet for his side, at which point he dribbled past three players to win a free-kick and force a yellow card for the tackle. There were a handful of other flashes of his dribbling ability, notably when he linked up with Emre Can, burst past two defenders and curled a shot wide of goal from 20 yards.
LFC) July 27, 2014
All told, though, he perhaps didn't get on the ball quite as much as he would have wanted to, and as Olympiakos dominated play more, he was forced to do more defensive work—which he did, to his credit, tracking back into the left-back area a number of times.
His maiden run-out for the Reds lasted just the first half, before he was replaced by Philippe Coutinho.
Right-back Glen Johnson made his first appearance of the summer after the international players were allowed more time off, eventually playing an hour of the game.
Very early on, he was able to run infield at the Olympiakos defence and beat two players, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box at the end of his dribble. However, that was his only meaningful contribution going forward, and he was far more frequently asked to chase back defensively.
Twice he was caught out with passes played inside him for the onrushing wide attacker and never really got tight to his man—until he was booked for a late tackle on the halfway line.
Johnson ended last season in dismal form and really needs to pick up from there to stay in the side, but his initial showing here did not inspire confidence that this would be the case. His replacement, Martin Kelly, was more aggressive in his defensive work and supported play going forward a little more quickly.
Glen Johnson picks up where he left off , not a great performance from him— LFC Hub (@Lfc_Hub) July 27, 2014
Improvements all-round are needed from Johnson over the remaining games of summer, technically as well as with his fitness work.