Brad Smith battles for the ball against FC Sion.

FC Sion 0-0 Liverpool: Four things we learned

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Liverpool advanced to the last 32 of the Europa League as winners of Group B with a goalless draw away at FC Sion.

Jurgen Klopp made six changes from Sunday's dreadful 2-0 loss against Newcastle United, with club captain Jordan Henderson making his first start since returning from injury.

The game was played with plenty of conservatism and lack of intent, despite the Liverpool boss urging his side get into their stride early prior to kick-off.


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Divock Origi had the Reds' best chance of the match in the opening five minutes but could not steer Brad Smith's cross towards the target.

The Merseyside outfit struggled to create openings following that near miss, but the return of Philippe Coutinho, who replaced James Milner after an hour, added much more penetration on the attack.

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Liverpool finished as Group B winners with ten points, one more than Sion who also go through, and there were several things learned from the match.

Brad Smith grabbing opportunity

On the face of things, there hasn't been much competition at full-back at Anfield this term.

Nathaniel Clyne's form has been solid since he moved from Southampton during the summer, but he's only had the emerging Connor Randall pushing for a place.

It is on the left-hand side of defence that has been the greatest worry. Alberto Moreno's form has somewhat improved under Klopp, and he is excellent when on the charge down the wing.

However, he's been known for a lapse in concentration, as displayed for Sadio Mane's goal against Southampton in the League Cup.

With Jose Enrique now demoted to the Under-21's and likely to leave the club when his contract runs out this summer, many fans were hopeful Klopp would open the chequebook and bring in somebody who would be involved in a tug-of-war with Moreno for a place in January.

When young players get an opportunity, it's vital they grab it with both hands and take the chance. Sometimes they can be fazed by the moment and get stage fright, but Smith's performance in Switzerland was the opposite.

Making your full debut on a half-frozen, bobbly pitch is not ideal; however, Smith put the conditions out of his mind and got on with the task at hand with maturity. He was top-class in the first-half, displaying he has excellent pace and an engine to match.

The Australian kept the width on the left-hand side, creating space for his teammates, as well as always asking for the ball. His cross for Origi's chance early on was near-perfect, and the Belgium striker should have thrown his head at the chance instead of his foot.


Smith registered six crosses throughout the 90 minutes, many of which were whipped in early and looked to catch Sion's rearguard off balance.

Defensively, he was also solid. Smith was not drawn towards the ball in crucial areas and was always checking over his shoulder to see where the player he was marking was. He made three blocks and two tackles in the match.

Smith will have got a taste for first team action having also made a cameo against Southampton, where his cross gave Origi an easy header for his hat-trick.

The 21-year-old will certainly want more of it and, if Moreno continues to leak goals, Smith looks a suitable replacement and Klopp may not have to bring a new face to L4 just yet.

Firmino's dip in form

It's fair to say that the jury is still firmly out on Roberto Firmino.

Having joined for £29 million from Hoffenheim during the summer, many expected fireworks from the Brazil international.

He was always going to struggle in the early stages of his Liverpool career whilst adapting to a new country and new league, but Firmino looked much better when Klopp took the reins in October.

His performance in last month's demolition of Manchester City was faultless, but Firmino hasn't kicked on and took his game to the next bar.

The 24-year-old was well below his best against Newcastle and produced another sub-par performance against Sion.


Firmino struggled to get the ball to stick to his feet, with his first touch being his biggest downfall and he was also loose in possession, giving the ball away six times.

Firmino was trying to create chances for the Reds and was always on the hunt to cut openings through Sion's stubborn defence. His shot from the outside of the box before the break was comfortably saved, but at least he took responsibility to have an effort on goal.

He's not resting on his laurels and it seems that Firmino has met a bad patch of form, and should improve in the next coming weeks.

Origi makes claims

With Daniel Sturridge out injured again, a spot to lead Liverpool's attack is up for grabs.

Christian Benteke's performance was distinctly lacklustre at Newcastle last week and he was dropped to the bench on Thursday evening.

Origi was given the nod by Klopp and the 20-year-old offered his manager plenty of food for thought.

The ex-Lille man's movement was significantly better than Benteke's, who failed to make darting runs behind the Magpies' back four in the north east.

Unlike his compatriot, Origi wanted to make himself a nuisance and give his teammates options round the back. Although Sion were resilient, he had several chances.

His best was when he hooked Smith's inviting cross the opposite way from goal. Origi should have went with his head, but he did well to anticipate the cross and will learn from his mistake.

Liverpool FC v FC Sion - UEFA Europa League

In the second period, Emre Can spotted Origi making a searching run in behind the home team's defence. The chance went begging but, again, he showed initiative to create space for himself.

Liverpool meet West Bromwich Albion on Sunday at Anfield and it's almost certain Tony Pulis will look to put 11 men behind the ball and look to travel back to the midlands with a draw.

The Reds will need a spark upfront, someone willing to create risks and move for his side. Based on recent performances, Origi could well have thrust himself to the front of the pecking order.

Topping group doesn't mean much

Finishing at the summit of Group B means that the Reds, on paper, will get a kinder draw in the last 32.

However, Liverpool could still get a stern test and their efforts could go meaningless.

The Reds could meet three teams who all sit second in their respective domestic leagues but failed to win their Europa League group. Fiorentina and Fenerbahce have showed solid league form this term and Klopp could also return to Borussia Dortmund much sooner than expected.

Liverpool Training Session

The unseeded Champions League teams also look highly competitive. Sevilla will be hopeful they can win the competition for a record third successive year and European veterans Shakhtar Donetsk are setting the pace in Ukraine.

Although Liverpool emerged as Group winners, it effectively gives them no advantage and it will all be about the luck of the draw.

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Europa League
Steven Gerrard
Premier League
Divock Origi

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