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Liverpool were on fire this past midweek as they thrashed FC Porto 5-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie. Sadio Mane led the way with a fine hat-trick, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino also getting into the act for the Reds, to all but seal their progression to the next round.
It was reason enough for the Kop to rejoice and their happiness will have reached further heights when their future star Naby Keita put in a starring display two days later for RB Leipzig as they defeated Napoli 3-1 in the UEFA Europa League.
Keita had been Liverpool’s top transfer target in the last summer window following his excellent debut campaign in the Bundesliga in the 2016/17 season with RB Leipzig. The Germans tried their damnedest to avert the Merseysiders’ overtures but eventually agreed to sell the player to Jurgen Klopp’s side in the summer of 2018, after they had met the £48million release clause in the player’s contract.
Ever since Keita’s performances have been under a microscope and while he hasn’t exactly been able to replicate his debut campaign levels, he has come up with returns of 7 goals and 2 assists in 25 games in all competitions. And the 23-year old produced a fine display on Thursday night against a difficult Napoli side to remind everyone what he is capable of.
Keita was on the field for 86 minutes in the game and was easily one of Leipzig’s standout performers as they went on to dispose of the Partenopei in their own backyard.
An extremely positive presence on the pitch, the 23-year old was always looking to drive his team forward, making runs into the attacking third, dribbling past his opponents. Keita attempted and completed all four of his take-ons on the night, with only Napoli midfielder Allan (5) doing better than the future Liverpool man in that aspect.
Keita’s passing was precise and crisp throughout the game, as he completed 54 of his 62 attempts to find a teammate with an accuracy of 87% – only Kevin Kampl bettered him in passes completed among the rest of his teammates. The midfielder wasn’t shy of having a go at goal and had five shots at goal in the game, two of which were on target. Only Timo Werner (7) attempted more shots.
Defensively, he wasn’t always that convincing and was dispossessed three times in dangerous areas but still managed to successfully complete 3 of his 4 attempted tackles in the game and also made five interceptions – most by any player who took the pitch.
Liverpool sold Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona last month and are likely to see Emre Can also leave in the summer on a free transfer. However, with Keita continuing to impress with his performances, that too on the European stages, the Reds’ faithful should be very much excited about his imminent arrival at the end of the season.
Surely after that display against Napoli, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Keita is showing all the signs that he will arrive at Liverpool in style and lift the team next season.