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Liverpool’s young guns start their European campaign with victory over Napoli

Liverpool’s 21-man senior squad flew out to Naples on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League clash at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium; the Reds also had an U19 team in attendance to begin their UEFA Youth League campaign. Fortunately for the youth team, their trip was more successful than that of their seniors. While Jürgen Klopp was left wondering what went wrong and how to solve his numerous first-team problems, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s team did themselves justice. The star of that game, which Liverpool won convincingly 2-1, was undoubtedly emerging youth star Ben Doak, who joined the Reds from Celtic earlier this summer. As Jürgen Klopp makes a ‘blatant’ referee call, Liverpool had Thiago’s brother on their transfer list: Thiago Alcântara’s admission should worry Jürgen Klopp, as the £63 million duo demonstrates what Liverpool lacks. Doak, who has already played twice for Celtic’s senior team, has made an immediate impact in the Liverpool academy. He scored and assisted in Naples, bringing his total to five goal contributions in four Reds games. Three of those matches were in the U18s Premier League, where Doak impressed with his directness, trickery, pace, and strength, but he has now proven capable on the European stage as well. Doak, who was born six months after Liverpool won the Champions League against AC Milan in Istanbul, is only 16 years old but has the physique and intelligence of a much older player, as evidenced by the number of goals he has scored. “If you want music to your ears — and I don’t want to create unrealistic headlines — but it is Mohamed Salah [who he is most stylistically similar to],” Owen Brown, who covers Celtic and Scotland’s youth teams, told on a special Blood Red podcast when Doak signed in the summer. ” He has the upper body strength but not the superhuman build or level of trickery and eye for goal, but there are some physical and ball-handling similarities. The other option is Xherdan Shaqiri, who is a match both stylistically and physically. Doak is an excellent stylistic fit for Liverpool.” It’s one thing to play well and score at U18s level, but as last season’s goalscoring champion, Oakley Cannonier, demonstrated, stepping up into European competition, especially away from home, can be difficult. Cannonier, who scored the other goal in Naples, appears to be more built up and better suited to holding his own in the older age groups this season. But he got a little lost last year, especially in Europe, lacking the physique to match his finishing ability. Doak has had no such issues. The pair have scored 38 goals in 57 competitive games for Liverpool at youth level (U18s, U19s, and U21s), with plenty more to come this season. Eighteen-year-old Cannonier has already advanced to the U21s squad, and Doak will not be far behind.

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