Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour shares his thoughts and observations ahead of the Super Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea in Istanbul…
Jordan Henderson is often the inspirational leader for Liverpool and that was no different in an intense small-sided game during training at the home of Besiktas. Moments after scoring a well-placed effort beyond the reach of Adrian, he had a second with the last kick of the match. The ball sat up nicely and he ran onto it, volleying into the top corner, sparking celebrations from Virgil van Dijk and gasps from those inside the stadium.
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With around 20 minutes to go Naby Keita appeared to pick up a muscle injury. He limped off with medical staff by his side and was in clear discomfort. Keita didn’t start against Norwich on Friday but it’s another injury concern after Jurgen Klopp lost goalkeeper Alisson to a calf injury.
Lonergan put through his paces
On the subject of goalkeepers, 35-year old Andy Lonergan, who has not played a competitive game since keeping a clean sheet for Wolves against Blackburn in April 2017, was in the thick of the action facing Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in a fast-paced attacking drill. The former Preston ‘keeper has joined on a short-term deal to provide cover. Adrian, who signed on a free transfer after leaving West Ham, was also impressive and he is expected to start after making his debut against Norwich last Friday.
Both sets of players took time to meet young amputee footballers from the UEFA Foundation for selfies after training. The look on their faces highlighted the impact Premier League footballers can make on young people. Salah, Jorginho and Emerson spent time kicking a ball around with them.
Caution over Kante
Frank Lampard can be a very hands-on manager. At one point during Chelsea’s session, he took Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi for some one-on-one shooting practice. After a couple of precise Ross Barkley finishes, goalkeeper Willy Caballero could be heard singing “Barkley’s on fire.” Meanwhile, Michy Batshuayi was less effective in front of goal and struggled to find his range. Working with Lampard will help him improve.
The big plus for Chelsea was that N’Golo Kante, Willian and Antonio Rudiger returned to full training, although Lampard urged caution on Kante who picked up another knock in the defeat at Manchester United. He was not moving as freely as we’ve become accustomed to, while Lampard confirmed Rudiger and Willian will be on the bench. Lampard is expected to continue to promote his highly-rated young players but hinted at a couple of tactical tweaks and changes.
Female referee to make history
History will be made in Istanbul as a female referee takes charge of a men’s European final. Stephanie Frappart, along with assistants Michelle O’Neill and Manuela Nicolosi, faced the media on Tuesday but left promptly as they had training. Frappart has only taken charge of two Ligue 1 games but was the referee for the women’s World Cup final in July. Roberto Rossetti, the most senior refereeing official in European football, explained that Frappart had passed the strict fitness tests that her male counterparts had undergone.
Rossetti also led a VAR presentation as he confirmed 427 incidents had been checked in UEFA competitions last season. There were 23 VAR corrections and 16 on-field reviews. That worked out as one correction every 2.4 matches. The shortest review was 40 seconds during the Man City Tottenham quarter-final while the longest review was just over 2 minutes 30 seconds at Porto vs Liverpool.
High security in Istanbul
The Chelsea and Liverpool team hotels, along with all other major hotels in the city, are subject to airport-style security at the front door, while each car that drives onto the premises is searched and checked with a long-handled mirror used to look underneath for explosives. As Chelsea arrived on Monday night armed guards patrolled the perimeter and there is a heavy and visible police presence in the area. Liverpool received a warm welcome at their Istanbul base with a “You’ll Never Walk Alone” display in the lobby area.