Steven Gerrard has challenged Liverpool U19s to meet the high standards set in their opening UEFA Youth League fixture when they resume their campaign against Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.
The young Reds’ first European outing of the season saw them produce a sparkling display to beat Sevilla 4-0 at Prenton Park and stake an early claim on top spot in Group E.
Now, Gerrard and co follow the first team out to Russia looking to build on that impressive start, and the boss is excited by the challenge that awaits his charges.
He said: “This is a different type of challenge for the boys. It’s a big game away from home and we have to travel so for sure the advantage is with Spartak, but what a wonderful experience it is to travel away and shadow the first team in the Champions League.
“We produced a wonderful performance in our opening game against Sevilla and myself and Neil Critchley will be reminding the players that they have set a standard and the bar has been raised very, very high.
“Can they match that or get close to it against Spartak? Because if they do hopefully we can another good result.”
“We won every single individual battle across the pitch and when you do that you win football matches, and you win them comfortably.
“We defended well and we were hard to play against. We won the ball back in important areas and with the talent, the speed and energy in this team with the likes of Ben Woodburn, Curtis Jones, Rhian Brewster, Liam Millar and Herbie Kane, we will be a tough side to beat.”
Gerrard handed the captain’s armband to Woodburn in the opening game, and was rewarded with an all-action performance from the young Welshman.
On the decision, the former Reds midfielder said: “I think he deserved that. He has probably got a little bit more experience than anyone else despite the fact he is only 17.
“He has now got international experience as well as first-team experience, he is training on a daily basis around the likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Adam Lallana, so I’m sure he is learning off them.
“It was a test for Ben when he joined up with us at U19 level last week because it was a case of what kind of attitude would he have and how would he approach it, but he was absolutely first class.
“He raised the level of the team in training and he inspired all of our young lads around him. He was absolutely first class in the game and he earned the captain’s armband.”
The U19s should be well prepared for their meeting with Spartak thanks to the work done by the coaching staff in analysing the opposition’s strengths and weakneses.
Gerrard added: “We will have a slightly different game plan to Sevilla but with the same principles.
“Can we be hard to beat? Can we be compact out of possession and win the ball back in good areas? Can we play a counter-attack game with pace, energy and speed in front of goal?
“Of course we are away from home and we are not sure what type of surface it will be, whether it will be astro-turf or grass, so we will take that into consideration, but we will be very respectful.
“We have watched their first game against Maribor. They have got some good players, they are a big team who like to play, they also get a lot of men behind the ball and they are not bad defensively as well.
“But, we’ve seen some weaknesses as well so hopefully we will be able to exploit that.”