After scoring 15 goals in his opening campaign for Liverpool, a friendly Europa League group will help Darwin Núñez erupt after delivering his best performance yet.
The Europa League draw couldn’t have gone better for Liverpool on Friday afternoon, as fears of a potential heavy travel schedule were put to one side.
The Reds won’t travel further than Austria during the competition group stage phase, a place where Jürgen Klopp is familiar having chosen there as a pre-season training camp destination, and that will only help a squad looking to re-establish Champions League status this season.
Without knowledge of which teams will drop down into the tournament when the knockout phases begin, Liverpool are the clear frontrunner for European glory at this stage, with a squad that was strengthened by the acquisition of Netherlands international Ryan Gravenberch on deadline day.
The Dutch midfielder, like others in Klopp’s squad, now has the chance to shine in that competition — but perhaps no one more so than Darwin Núñez.
Núñez is quickly diminishing concerns of whether he fits into Klopp’s squad, having produced his best performance of his Liverpool career at St. James’ Park last week.
In counter-attack phases, and against any opposition who deploys a high line, Núñez is among the world’s best at taking full advantage.
Against three sides that aren’t accustomed to deploying a park-the-bus system in LASK, Toulouse, and Union SG, the Uruguayan is surely primed to finish the group stage with one hand on the Golden Boot. More importantly, though, he will begin to garner more confidence in front of goal.
While still not as effective as Cody Gakpo in the false nine role despite some promising link-up play with Mohamed Salah in pre-season, Núñez — when used in his best position — can become as vital as Erling Haaland is to Manchester City. Grabbing a few goals in Europe, as he did for Benfica, will only be a positive step forward for his confidence.
Four midfield acquisitions this season have also re-ignited the competition for places in the supporting cast behind the forward line.
Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, who have both impressed recently, are likely to be handed leading roles in Europe, where they already have a promising track record.