Darwin Nunez made his first Liverpool start but couldn’t prevent his side from losing for the second time this pre-season as the Reds went down 1-0 to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.
In Liverpool’s last pre-season friendly before Saturday’s Community Shield against Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp put out a second-string side in Austria but started marquee signing Nunez fresh off his four goals against RB Leipzig last week.
The Uruguayan forward struck the crossbar in a frustrating first half for the Reds, which saw them fall behind on the counter-attack courtesy of another familiar name in the transfer window.
Benjamin Sesko, linked to Manchester United and Newcastle in the UK media, swept past Adrian on the half-hour mark after superbly bursting past Ibrahima Konate to start the attack off.
Nunez was taken off at half-time and Liverpool had a near-full strength side on 60 minutes and created far more chances.
The best fell to Luis Diaz just minutes after coming on, with the Colombian playing a one-two with Jordan Henderson before forcing young Salzburg goalkeeper Nico Mantl into a good save.
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah forced Mantl into a good save, before Diaz had a run and finish disallowed for offside.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson all had late efforts but the Austrian side held on for the victory.
Analysis: Which starting XI spots are up for grab at Liverpool?
Sky Sports football journalist Sam Blitz:
Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports News this week that there will be no more transfer incomings this summer, barring any bizarre circumstances.
And if this friendly in Austria is anything to go by, then the Liverpool manager – who had a full-strength side barring Alisson Becker and Kostas Tsimikas – has a clear first-choice XI and a second string to choose from going into the start of the season.
The Reds had more of a zip after the hour mark when the big guns – who may have been saved for Saturday’s Community Shield clash with Manchester City – came on to try and find a way back in this game.
So if there is a difference in quality between the two line-ups Klopp fielded against Salzburg, then where is the competition for places in this Liverpool team, with just over a week to go with the opening curtain at Fulham?
Well, the first is obvious. Darwin Nunez was by far and away Liverpool’s best player in the first half among the second-string players. The Uruguayan used his strength well to bring others into play, and pointed towards misfortune via the crossbar and some last-ditch Salzburg defending as to why he couldn’t add to his four goals in Leipzig last week.
It looks like Nunez and Firmino will compete with Diogo Jota for that striker berth, as Mohamed Salah and Luis Diaz occupy the wings. But no one can really tell due to the fluidity of Liverpool’s attacking options.
At the back, Ibrahima Konate was another bright spark and showed astute defending at times, but did look a little bullied for Benjamin Sesko’s goal. Him versus Joel Matip in the battle to be Virgil van Dijk’s strike partner will be an interesting tussle.
Liverpool’s midfield three of Fabinho, Thiago and Jordan Henderson looks settled with Naby Keita doing little to impress in Austria – but Harvey Elliott stands a chance of starting against Fulham next week. The youngster started on the wing once again but came inside and may take up his midfield role.
Liverpool fans should not look too much into this pre-season friendly given the fact Salzburg have already started their league season so are ahead in their pre-season and fitness schedule. But the performance of young defender Isaac Mabaya will please them, with the 17-year-old getting forward well from right-back.
Liverpool have the Community Shield with Manchester City on Saturday before taking on Ligue 1 side RC Strasbourg on Sunday at Anfield.
Expect most of the Liverpool squad to be used by then, before Jurgen Klopp’s side open their Premier League season away to Fulham on August 6.