Liverpool return to International Champions Cup (ICC) action this week, and much has changed at Anfield since the Reds last fared in the competition two years ago.
The Reds enter the warm-up tournament for the second time as Jurgen Klopp oversees his first pre-season as Anfield boss.
Liverpool’s ICC debut came in summer 2014 under Brendan Rodgers—the Reds landing off the back of a memorable league campaign.
But this time around, Liverpool arrive in very different circumstances for a competition that has expanded rapidly since the last involvement—with more teams featuring than ever before.
A hectic two years have passed since the Reds’ previous participation and plenty has certainly changed at Anfield over those 24 months.
When Liverpool arrived in the US two years ago, they did so on a wave of optimism.
Rodgers’ side had just enjoyed a fantastic 13/14 season, and positivity and optimism over the Reds’ exciting on-pitch future was rife—despite the heartbreak of missing out on Premier League glory.
Despite the runner-up finish, the re-emergence of Liverpool as a dominant Premier League force—scoring over 100 goals and claiming 84 points—had the football world talking as the Reds prepared for a Champions League comeback.
One of the most exciting teams anywhere just months before, the Reds were a main attraction alongside European giants Real Madrid and Inter Milan, with widespread feeling that Liverpool were on their way back.
But while Liverpool will again be a star attraction this summer—as always visiting anywhere in the world—hope rather than expectation is the overriding feeling, as Klopp prepares for his first full season.
Two turbulent campaigns of sixth- and eighth-placed league finishes, combined with two cup final losses, has seen a very different feeling descend on Anfield compared to 24 months ago.
But kicking off an exciting new era under Klopp, optimism is high as the German looks to spark a transformation in fortunes.
Management & Staff
The most significant difference as the Reds prepare for their ICC opener with Chelsea is that Klopp is at the helm.
Previously led by Rodgers, Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, the Reds arrived in search of friendly but competitive workouts against strong European opponents as they acclimatised to life after Luis Suarez.
But despite reaching the final after beating Olympiakos, AC Milan and Man City on penalties, a disappointing 2014/15 and poor start to 2015/16 saw Rodgers’ time end and Klopp’s reign begin.
Joined by “the brain,” Zeljko Buvac, and “the eye,” Peter Krawietz, Klopp leads Liverpool’s fresh management team—after an educational opening period to life at Anfield—who have also been supplemented with changes to the support cast.
Pepijn Ljinders has since stepped into a first-team development coach role, and of the immediate backroom team who operated under Rodgers, goalkeeping coach John Achterberg is the only survivor.
Epitomising Klopp’s new era, Liverpool boast a new fitness coach in Andreas Kornmayer, who joined from Bayern Munich, where his influence was key to success under Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola.
The fitness coach has an important role in ensuring the group are in peak condition for Klopp’s high-intensity game, which will be helped by newly appointed head of nutrition, Mona Nemmer.
According to Goal’s Melissa Reddy, Nemmer “has had individual consultations with the squad and has analysed everything from what food is sourced to how it is prepared,” showing Klopp is leaving no stone unturned.
Changes to management have been plentiful, but not as numerous as the ever-changing Anfield squad.
Two winters and a full summer transfer window have passed since Liverpool’s ICC debut and that is reflected in the different faces in the squad.
Rodgers took a 33-man squad two years ago, with Klopp going one better and taking 34 players this time.
But only 10 men have been involved under both managers, those being Simon Mignolet, Andre Wisdom, Mamadou Sakho, Lucas Leiva, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge.
[quote_box_right]Liverpool Squad, ICC 2014
Mignolet, Reina, Jones, Ward
Agger, Sakho, Skrtel, Coates, Toure, Ilori, Johnson, Enrique, Kelly, Robinson, Wisdom, Flanagan
Gerrard, Henderson, Allen, Can, Coady, Phillips, Teixeira, Suso, Lucas, Coutinho, Ibe, Lallana, Markovic, Sterling
Sturridge, Lambert, Borini[/quote_box_right]
While those are still around, 20 first-team players—going on 22 with Joe Allen’s and Brad Smith’s impending exits—have left Merseyside over those 24 months, including an emotional Anfield ending for Liverpool’s last ICC goalscorer, Steven Gerrard.
There were fewer tears shed with exits of Iago Aspas, Sebastian Coates, Martin Kelly, Fabio Borini, Suso and Jose Enrique, while Rickie Lambert lived his Liverpool dream for all of a season before Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel and Jordon Ibe quit Merseyside this summer.
Meanwhile, 19 first-team signings have arrived, with Liverpool making their second-, third- and fourth-most expensive signings ever in Christian Benteke, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
Business has been more hit than miss in that time, with the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Joe Gomez, Alberto Moreno, James Milner, Danny Ings and, more recently, Joel Matip, Loris Karius, Marko Grujic and Georginio Wijnaldum all positive acquisitions.
Oppositely, it’s impossible to escape the lingering nightmare of Mario Balotelli, who has become a negative mark against the Reds’ first ICC outing, having signed after featuring against Liverpool for Milan and seemingly can’t be moved.
However, a lack of genuine breakthrough talent has continued, though this will hopefully improve with the exciting emergence of Sheyi Ojo, Ovie Ejaria and Cameron Brannagan, with the trio hopeful of action in the US.
Having missed out on ICC glory last time, going one better would provide a welcome confidence boost ahead of the real thing if nothing else.
It would be another change, and a welcome one, to the Liverpool of two years ago.
Liverpool’s International Champions Cup dates: