The talking points from Liverpool's friendly win over Blackburn
 (Photo by John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Liverpool stepped up their preparations for the return of the Premier League by taking on mid-table Championship side Blackburn Rovers on Thursday.

The Reds ran out 6-0 winners thanks to goals from Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Takumi Minamino, Joel Matip, Ki-Jana Hoever and Leighton Clarkson.

But what did we learn from this routine victory at an empty Anfield?

The Reds are ramping up

The scoreline will no doubt please Jurgen Klopp, but his biggest concern is surely recovering his team's trademark intensity after a near three-month absence.

And there were encouraging signs in that respect. Klopp hailed his team's counter-press as 'brilliant', while his opposite number Tony Mowbray marvelled at Liverpool's 'amazing pressing machine'.

"You can't play your own game because they don't let you have three passes," he explained in an interview with the club website.

It should be stressed that seven of Liverpool's starters were withdrawn at half-time, and the remaining four were substituted on the hour mark.

With that in mind, the league leaders may well be lining up another friendly in the early part of next week to push toward 90-minute readiness.

Burnley, Preston North End and Wigan Athletic are potential opponents within the permitted distance.

Inevitably, there is some rustiness

Though resoundingly beaten, Blackburn were able to carve out openings against a Liverpool defence still lacking total sharpness.

Adam Armstrong hit the post for the visitors after robbing Joe Gomez, while Alisson was nearly beaten by a 40-yard lob after rushing out to clear when the defensive line was breached.

Ben Brereton could also have denied the Reds a clean sheet when he found space 15 yards from goal, but he fired just wide.

In the end, the gulf in quality was made glaringly obvious, but Liverpool know their lapses are far more likely to be punished at the top level.

Indeed, it is worth remembering that it took until December this season for the Reds to truly find their defensive rhythm.  

Small, but telling injury problems

Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson and Curtis Jones were sidelined for Rovers' visit, though Jurgen Klopp dismissed their injuries as 'little issues'.

Xherdan Shaqiri, who has struggled for fitness all season, was nowhere to be seen yet again.

On the other hand, Georginio Wijnaldum, who missed the intra-squad match at Anfield at the beginning of the month, was able to play the second half here.

But it is nonetheless noteworthy that at least four players have had to deal with niggles despite the lack of matches. 

Plenty of line-up tweaks can be expected in the opening fixtures, not just at Liverpool but across the Premier League, as players' bodies react to this impromptu 'pre-season'.

Minamino and Keita sense opportunities

One player who will be frankly desperate to stay fit is Naby Keita, approaching the end of his second full season on Merseyside having been able to show only glimpses of his £50million quality. 

But it would seem that he has returned to Melwood in great shape. Liverpool's observer from the gantry said he was 'everywhere' during his 45 minutes on the pitch.

The Guinean was on the scoresheet with close-range finish, but more impressive was his general midfield play.

He played a line-breaking pass into Sadio Mane in the build-up to Takumi Minamino's goal, and later set Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain through with an incisive 15-yard ball after shuffling away from a Blackburn challenge.

Minamino, meanwhile, is looking to stake his claim to a greater role in Liverpool's attack after the Reds dropped their interest in Timo Werner.

It has been a quiet start to life at Anfield following his January move from RB Salzburg, but his neatly-taken goal and intelligent assist for Keita will boost his confidence.

He occupied Roberto Firmino's false-nine role in the first half, and it would not be a surprise if he were handed a few starts in that position between now and season's end.

Youngsters catching Klopp's eye

Liverpool's sixth goal was their finest, and it was crafted by three teenagers.

Harvey Elliott drifted back from the byline and fizzed the ball into Leighton Clarkson, who had the goal at his mercy after a rapid 1-2 with Ki-Jana Hoever. Clarkson sat the final defender down and simply waited for the goalkeeper to blink before knocking it home.

"It is just so nice," was Klopp's post-match verdict. In fact, he likes what he is seeing from all his young talent at the moment.

"Sepp [Van den Berg] looks really promising in training sessions. Ki-Jana, centre-half and right-back, looks really good. 

"When Harvey, Curtis [Jones] and Neco [Williams] played, it looked good as well."

Liverpool need just two wins from their remaining nine matches to seal the title. If they can wrap it up early, Klopp will have to juggle his desire for a points record with his keenness to test these exciting prospects at Premier League level. 

This four-week training camp has certainly allowed them to strengthen their case.

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