Premiership Picks

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

It seems as though as soon as Naby Keita looks set for a potential run in the Liverpool team, he suffers a niggle or a knock.

The best example of this was towards the end of what was an up-and-down 2018/19 campaign, when he started four successive Premier League matches against Southampton, Chelsea, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town in April.

The Guinea international scored twice in that run of fixtures, as well as another in a man-of-the-match performance against FC Porto in the Champions League.

He received plenty of praise on Twitter from supporters and looked to finally be showing why the Reds had paid so much money to bring him to Anfield, but unfortunately it didn’t last.

On the chalkboard

At RB Leipzig previously, the 24-year-old was a box-to-box player capable of scoring and assisting, as shown with his 17 goals and 15 assists in 71 outings, according to Transfermarkt.

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However, he has struggled to replicate that sort of form on Merseyside, scoring three and assisting one in 34 appearances to date.

Just when he looked to be hitting some form by scoring two of those three goals in April, he suffered a groin issue that ruled him out of the final two top flight games of the campaign.

Keita would surely have been hoping to hit the ground running this term and may well have been in contention for a start in the Super Cup on Wednesday, but Liverpool Echo reporter Ian Doyle tweeted that he had left the training pitch early on Tuesday and his absence was later explained by the club as due to a muscle strain – not a good sign again for the African.

Chance for Harvey Elliott?

If Keita has suffered a new issue or a recurrence of a previous problem, then summer addition Elliott could be his surprise replacement – until he returns, that is.

The 16-year-old likely earned a move to Anfield because of his performances and record on the wing for both Fulham’s and England’s youth sides, but as we saw on Tuesday he actually played as part of a central midfield three during a mini training game before the big Istanbul clash.

His profile on former club Fulham’s website describes him as having a ‘superb first touch’ and being ‘known for his dribbling ability’, which are two traits to suggest that he could yet have a short-term – and potentially a long-term – future as part of a midfield trio.

Having appeared against Napoli during pre-season, the young Englishman clearly has no fear despite his tender years, and he already looks ready to make an impact when his time comes.

That could be sooner rather than later if Keita has suffered an injury, and the teenager could be the surprise man to step up and fill any potential void.

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James Beavis