Curtis Jones taking advantage of cruel reality in bid to become Liverpool regular after Harvey Elliott injury

The midfielder has impressed having come into the team following Harvey Elliott’s sickening injury.

Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images

When Harvey Elliott suffered his horrific ankle injury against Leeds last month, the whole of Elland Road had empathy for him.

At just 18, he was making his third successive start for Liverpool and was establishing himself as a regular.

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Emotions run high

Not many felt for Elliott more than Curtis Jones in the Reds dugout.

Assistant-manager Pep Lijnders would subsequently admit Jones was emotional on the sidelines as events unfolded.

He’d watched a close friend discloate his ankle and knew someone just two years his junior was set for a cruel, prolonged period on the sidelines.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 12: Harvey Elliott of Liverpool applauds the fans as he leaves the pitch on a stretcher following an injury during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Liverpool at Elland Road on September 12, 2021 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

However, once a few days passed and everyone came to terms with the former Blackburn loanee's condition, attention would have turned elsewhere.

There can be little room for sentiment in football. Sit back and feel sorry for others too much and you'll quickly find yourself in a similar position as those who are out of the fray.

It might sound a bit of a taboo thing to think and say - but when a team-mate sustains a serious setback, those behind in the pecking order simply need to take advantage. That goes for any level.

Worries about Elliott's health will and won’t ever have stopped. That is paramount.

Stepping up

Still, Jones would have known he had to seize his opportunity in the teenager's absence.

Even more so given the competitiveness for places in Jurgen Klopp's midfield, with Jordan Henderson, Thiago, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all battling for a berth.

But so far since Elliott entered the treatment room, Jones has stepped up and taken on the mantle.

The homegrown midfielder was handed his third successive start in just eight days in Liverpool's 5-1 demolition of Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Curtis Jones in action for Liverpool against Porto. Picture: David Ramos/Getty Images

Jones was encouraging when moved into an advanced role in the 3-0 defeat of Norwich in the Carabao Cup last week before impressing in Saturday's 3-3 draw at Brentford, in which he netted a fine long-range goal.

But it was against a bona fide top European outfit in which he delivered one of his best performances in a red shirt to date.

A dominant display

Jones bossed the midfield throughout. He displayed the attacking prowess required when operating as the conduit when linking up forays.

He was also mature defensively out of possession, a part of his game Klopp's previously admitted he needs to work on.

But, at the same time, the Liverpool boss has been cautious not to shackle Jones’ outstanding ability going forward.

While making waves in the academy, it was his goalscoring that people were waxing lyrical about.

The first time Jones truly announced himself was his magnificent strike to defeat Everton 1-0 in the Merseyside derby in January 2020.

That's the role Kopites want to see him in. That's the role he thrived in against Porto.

In total, he had four shots on goal, created three chances and notched himself two assists. That placed him top of the Liverpool standings in each category.

Jones' clever drop of the shoulder in the 18th minute allowed him a yard of space to take a shot on goal. His effort was only parried by home keeper Diogo Costa and Mo Salah snaffled the rebound to break the deadlock.

On the hour mark, Jones would then be the sole engineer for Salah's second. He pilfered the ball in his own half and drove forward onto the edge of Porto's box.

And rather than playing it simple to the overlapping Sadio Mane, he intelligently cut back inside, got his head up and picked out the Egyptian inside the box to finish for Liverpool’s third.

It was then his tight control to get himself out of trouble that set Roberto Firmino free, who was allowed to strong home into an empty net when Costa bizarrely came racing off his line.

The next challenge

It was the all-round performance that Jones has been threatening for so long but perhaps never quite delivered.

Curtis Jones embraces Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp after the defeat of Porto. Picture: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP via Getty Images

Maybe that's why some fans got so frustrated with him last season. After all, he made 34 appearances in all competitions and was more than a bit-part player.

No-one has ever doubted the quality is there but they had been waiting for the Toxteth-raised youngster to mature into the player he's capable of becoming.

Jones' outing against Porto underlined the rapid progress he's made from last term to this campaign.

Now the next test for Liverpool is against Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday.

If Jones dictates the engine room against Pep Guardiola's men, should he again play, then there can be no doubting his prodigious talent and he’ll be tough to shift.