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talking point One selection issue has been cleared up for Jurgen Klopp in the first two games of the season

New stars, returned heroes and singing fans bring out the best

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Jurgen Klopp saw his team win but was not totally satisfied afterwards (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jurgen Klopp saw his team win but was not totally satisfied afterwards (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jurgen Klopp saw his team win but was not totally satisfied afterwards (Mike Egerton/PA)

Being back at Anfield yesterday gave me the feeling that football is finally back for real – and you could see the impact that it had on Jurgen Klopp’s players.

Not all aspects of Liverpool’s performance in their 2-0 win against Burnley were perfect, but it was a lot better than what we saw for chunks of last season, when games were played without fans at Anfield.

Burnley were the team that started Liverpool’s horrible run of six home defeats in a row last season and I said, at the time, that it would never have happened if the fans were inside Anfield.

Well, the same two teams locked horns as the stadium was finally filled again, and the ­difference was noticeable from the first whistle.

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 Fans of Liverpool hold aloft scarves prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield on August 21, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Fans of Liverpool hold aloft scarves prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield on August 21, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Fans of Liverpool hold aloft scarves prior to the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley at Anfield on August 21, 2021 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The Liverpool players looked sharper, their passing was a little crisper and from my seat, high in the commentary box at Anfield, the noise was spine-tingling.

While lunchtime kick-offs often lack some atmosphere, the fans have waited so long to go to a game at Anfield that they sang their hearts out from the first to the last yesterday.

The ­pre-match rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone was special as it has been so long since we’ve heard it and it was also a ­moment to reflect on ­people who have passed on since the

last proper home match with fans. That includes ­Andrew Devine, who lost his life a few weeks ago after a long battle with the injuries he ­suffered during the Hillsborough disaster back in 1989. May he rest in peace.

I firmly believe that the Anfield noise is different compared to any other ­stadium I’ve ever been at and yesterday we were reminded of the ­influence those fans can have on the Liverpool team.

To their credit, Burnley had a go and when it was only 1-0, they offered a threat on the breakaway and it needed the ­second goal from ­Sadio Mane to wrap up the points.

The balance in midfield could ­improve, but the return of Jordan Henderson gave the side a more solid look, and I was also impressed with Kostas Tsimikas.

The Greek full-back has taken time to settle at Liverpool and the step-up in class from what he was used to in Turkish football is massive, but he took his chance in the absence of Andy Robertson, who is close to a return from his pre-season injury.

Tsimikas is similar to Roberston in many ways. He is a 100-mile-an-hour ­player and he flew into three committed ­challenges ­yesterday that drew a big cheer from the fans.

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New kid Elliott was up to the challenge.

New kid Elliott was up to the challenge.

New kid Elliott was up to the challenge.

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He also showed he had the quality to make an impact at this level and I was impressed by the delivery he offered from corners, which has been a weak spot for Liverpool in recent years.

Robertson is close to a ­return from injury and it will be ­interesting to see if Klopp brings him straight back in against Chelsea next weekend as Tsimikas did well yesterday.

The player who stood out was Virgil van Dijk, who was magnificent at the heart of the defence.

The big man had a ­brilliant late challenge to preserve ­Liverpool’s clean sheet and it was a reminder of what he brings to this team.

Some players need time to get back up to full speed after a massive injury, but Van Dijk seems to be at his best already and that highlights his class. What a player Van Dijk is.

He is so elegant on the ball and a calming presence to those around him, and he even had a role in one of the goals with one of his brilliant passes out from the back.

Both of Liverpool’s goals were fantastically well worked and finished off in style by Diogo Jota and Mane.

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Diogo Jota opened the scoring against Burnley (Mike Egerton/PA)

Diogo Jota opened the scoring against Burnley (Mike Egerton/PA)

Diogo Jota opened the scoring against Burnley (Mike Egerton/PA)

Jota has to start ahead of ­Roberto Firmino now as he ­offers a goal threat the Brazilian has not provided for a long time and I hope Mane’s goal gets him firing again.

He has not looked himself for the best part of a year and ­sometimes a goal is all you need to get the burner going again.

It was a fantastic goal as well with Van Dijk’s brilliant pass and young Harvey Elliott involved in the build-up before Mane’s wonderful finish.

It was a shame that Mo Salah didn’t get a goal, as well as his first-half effort, which was ruled out by VAR for a tight off-side, but he looked sharp once again.

These are early days, but the record reads: scored five and conceded none so far, and Klopp couldn’t ask for much than that after the first two matches.

Now the countdown is on to a game that will give us a much ­better indication of where ­Liverpool are like against their big rivals this season, as Chelsea are coming to Anfield next weekend in what will be a real test.

What these opening two ­matches have done for Liverpool is dust off the cobwebs that built up when they were playing matches without fans.

With Andy Robertson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara among those who are still to be added to the team, they are starting to look like the title-chasing team of a couple of years ago.

That said, Klopp won’t get carried away by wins against Norwich and Burnley, with this massive game against Chelsea set to be the acid test ahead of the first international break of the season.

If Liverpool beat Thomas Tuchel’s European champions, they will make a big statement in a season when the clashes against the top four clubs will be more important than ever before.

I know Man City lost at ­Tottenham last weekend, but I’m expecting both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool to have too much class for the lesser Premier League teams.

So the title may be decided in the games between the sides at the top and that’s why Liverpool’s game against Chelsea next ­Sunday is vital.

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