James Milner has backed Takumi Minamino to make an impact in the remaining nine games of the season.
The Liverpool vice-captain believes the playmaker has benefitted more than most from the coronavirus hiatus, giving him the time to adjust to life on Merseyside.
The 25-year-old joined in January from Salzburg, but is yet to start a league game for the Reds, and has made just seven appearances in all competitions.
But the Japan international has looked sharp in training according to Milner, and will likely have a bigger part to play with the champions-elect facing a packed schedule.
“Taki has looked fantastic coming back in,” Milner told Goal. “This period might have helped him settle in, feeling like he’s been at the club longer than he has, really. It’s given him that extra time to get used to things.
“It’s difficult coming in in the middle of a season, getting used to how a team plays. It’s hard to do that when you’re preparing for a game every three days. This period I’m sure will have helped him and hopefully he can have a positive impact.”
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Jurgen Klopp echoed Milner’s views at his virtual pre-match press conference.
“Oh yes, massively so,” he said when asked if lockdown had benefited Minamino specifically. “With new players coming in, usually we say the first two, three, four months we don’t judge.
“But I know the public does and that means that we have to always explain why it’s not like this, why it’s not like that.
“The more time you have, for whatever reason, the better it is. And now we had four weeks, which is by the way the longest pre-season I had with any Liverpool side all together. That’s a massive difference.
“Usually we have – all together – one week. I think last year it was not even a week when Sadio came back!
“It helped Taki, 100 per cent, he looks really different in the moment than to the first three weeks when he tried to please everybody and do everything we say in a language he’s not 100 per cent comfortable with.
“So we have now had much more time and he is settled. That’s good and it helped.”