Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Sparta Prague 1 Liverpool 5 in the Europa League last 16 at the Letná Stadium…


YOU can’t help but see everything through the prism of Sunday.

The selection. Through the prism of Sunday.

The performance. Well, the goals and the excellence are good, but the feeling of being permeable isn’t. Through the prism of Sunday.

The half-time sub. The Ibou Konate sub. The Mo Salah sub. Through the prism of Sunday.

It doesn’t matter that this is the biggest game of their season and perhaps the biggest of some of their players’s lives. Have they heard about Sunday? What about the prism of Sunday?

It is overwhelming and, if anything, it adds to the excellence of the result and on the balance the performance. Because surely they are playing the game through the prism of Sunday.

Perhaps not.

I’ve been lucky to be in a room with the manager and I obviously like him immensely, as everyone who ends up in a room with him seems to, but the magic of that is that he is so present in the room, in the moment that he carries everything along.

All your extraneous thoughts, hopes, fears disappear because we are here and it is now and we need to find a way to relish it, cherish it, all together. Life is for living, not anticipating.

The game is both reminiscent of recent tests, but a bit alien. They gamble everything on the first 30, but their gamble is deeper than most Premier League gambles.

Sparta Prague are a team full of technical excellence, but their issue is physicality and mechanics. They have the how and they have the brain, but the gumption is the gap and the lack of gumption gets clearer as the game wears on.

And their goalkeeper. It’s a tough trot, one of those that gets out of hand. But – in a sense – fuck that. This season Darwin Nunez has been taking even money chances and making them 4/6 and then somehow losing his fortune. Tonight, that doesn’t happen. The opposite happens and it is part of the reversion to mean we could all have expected.

He strikes his first beautifully, which is annoying because it makes superlatives about how he strikes his second very difficult to reach for. He is as present as Jürgen and he goes off when a hat trick felt inevitable.

Luis Diaz was my pick, though. He has found his place in this side now for me – flits in and out of roles across the pitch, all of them helpful. His goal was deserved, his contribution is constant and he will be important Sunday. Through the prism of Sunday.

Alexis Mac Allister is picking a great moment to kick on. He loves and understands his teammates profoundly and this is what has changed. He finds his areas across the pitch to play in and play in to. These are two different and marvellous things.

I loved the own goal, though I obviously suspect Conor Bradley didn’t, but you have to laugh. It is a game, after all.

Dominik Szoboszlai and Mo Salah looked bright through the prism of Sunday, but any shirt may have to be prised out of Harvey Elliott’s dead hands. He exudes vitality.

The job can’t be done any better other than the Ibou Konate question, one which will be a talking point for days to come. Possibly into Tuesday, though hopefully not.

But before the final whistle, possibly before you even got up this morning, there is only one thing on your mind. Honestly, that’s natural. It was on my mind in early August. This though…

Sunday is what we wanted. What we asked for. What we prayed for. Is there additional context with injuries and Arsenal and the actual ramifications of the table as it is? Absolutely. But you’d have dealt on all that in August – if you wouldn’t you are friskier than I am and very few were back then.

This is it. All you have wanted. What worries me is that it is what they will have wanted too. But no matter. That is sometimes how it goes.

Be present Sunday. There is only Sunday in real terms – no other league game until March 31. Be as present as you have ever been for anything. Mothering Sunday – so bring her, bring everyone, wherever you are bring everything. Bring your fucking dinner, because you are going to need it. We are going to need it by the time this is finished with us.

Relish it. It’s a gift, all this. A gift. Promise.


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