Liverpool’s £85m signing Darwin Nunez will have to make a mark in the Battle of Britain to boost Uruguay starting spot

Liverpool’s £85m signing Darwin Nunez will have to make a mark in the Battle of Britain to boost Uruguay starting spot

Will Darwin Nunez feature in Tuesday’s Battle of Britain?

The big striker was a late substitute for Liverpool against Brighton on Saturday, while Roberto Firmino saved the team from defeat.

Darwin Nunez was a late substitute in Liverpool's draw against Brighton
Darwin Nunez was a late substitute in Liverpool’s draw against BrightonCredit: Getty

This was not the original plan. Nunez was brought in from Benfica at the start of the season to give Liverpool a new attacking dimension.

Firmino seemed on the wane, and Jurgen Klopp appeared ready to switch a model of play with the Brazilian as a deep lying centre forward for one in which the big Uruguayan would play as a target man.

How would this work out? There was always a risk that it might disturb the balance. The way that Firmino interprets the role leaves space ahead of his space that Mo Salah likes to fill, cutting in onto his left foot to shoot at goal.

But if Nunez is going to be the king of the penalty area, that inevitably has a knock on effect, forcing Salah wider, away from goal and on to his weaker right foot.

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Liverpool might have been better able to work on these adjustments had Nunez not been sent off on his home debut against Crystal Palace.

The subsequent three game suspension interrupted his adaptation to the Premier League and meant that he has been playing catch up ever since – and the recent pause for FIFA dates probably did not help.

While on duty for Uruguay, Nunez was on target against Canada, meeting a Luis Suarez cross with a firm header to score the second goal in a comfortable 2-0 win.

But here, too, there are problems about how he fit into the team.

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For a long time now Uruguay have played 4-4-2, with Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front. Two problems have emerged.

Firstly, Suarez and Cavani are both now at the veteran stage, and no longer the ideal partnership.

Second, the best part of the side now is probably the midfield, with Real Madrid~s Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur of Tottenham pulling the strings.

And this part of the team seems to work best when there are three in the middle of the pitch, with Matias Vecino playing the holding role.

Four days before the Canada game, Uruguay were beaten by Iran, England’s World Cup opponents next month. The only goal came soon after Vecino had been taken off and the system changed to 4-4-2.

Nunez started that game on the left of a front three, but it showed up the weaknesses of his left foot. He clearly works best as a central striker. But what if Uruguay only field one?

The central midfielders might well be happier, and the playmakers too. But it leaves coach Diego Alonso with an awkward decision. Can he leave out Luis Suarez?

The former Liverpool striker is the main man, the country’s all time top scorer.

But at the age of 35 he is past his best, and looked short of sharpness in the recent games, especially against Iran, when he missed a host of chances.

Federico Valverde is the heartbeat of Uruguay's midfleid
Federico Valverde is the heartbeat of Uruguay’s midfleidCredit: AP
Nunez and Luis Suarez will by vying for the main striker spot for Uruguay
Nunez and Luis Suarez will by vying for the main striker spot for UruguayCredit: Getty

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So if they only play one up front do Uruguay go with the former Liverpool legend? Or the new Anfield hope?

Anything Darwin Nunez can do against Rangers in the Battle of Britain can only boost his claims.

Jon Boon

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