After over a month-long absence Liverpool made their return for pre-season training, where a number of things caught our attention.
Jurgen Klopp welcomed back 16 members of his squad on Saturday as preparations for the 2019/20 season officially kicked off.
The Reds were without a host of senior players due to their international commitments post the Champions League final, meaning the likes of James Milner, Adam Lallana, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Fabinho were the only ‘regulars’ present.
The day comprised of fitness tests and exercises for each player and also saw Liverpool’s newest addition Sepp van den Berg officially added to the fold.
Here are the five things that caught our eye as Liverpool made their return for pre-season.
Lactate Test Offers Certainties & Surprises
What is a Liverpool pre-season without a lactate test or Milner dominating said test?
The 33-year-old came out on top on Saturday as he again showed no signs of slowing down after out-running his fellow senior teammates.
The surprise, however, was that Gomez was right on his coattails on the final lap of the gruelling endurance test. It comes as a major boost for the season ahead after the centre-back was sidelined for over four months last term.
The England international was a key pillar in Klopp’s defence before breaking his leg against Burnley in December, limiting him to just seven appearances on his return.
Gomez is clearly primed to do battle with Matip this pre-season as the pair go head-to-head for the spot alongside Virgil van Dijk.
Klopp Lays Down Challenge for Van den Berg
The manager came face to face with his newest signing for the first time on Saturday and was immediately stunned by the sheer size of the 17-year-old who is expected to work closely with the first team.
Van den Berg will likely feature throughout pre-season, but Klopp has suggested the defender can be a signing for the now rather than the future should he impress early doors.
It poses as an early challenge for the young Dutchman to rise to as he will be competing with the likes of Dejan Lovren, Matip, Gomez and even Ki-Jana Hoever for a place in the team.
Additionally, while Van den Berg has yet to be officially assigned a number he was seen donning No. 16 – which as far as we know currently belongs to Marko Grujic, currently on a second successive loan spell with Hertha Berlin.
It could very well be a case of the youngster simply wearing a top with another players’ number which has happened before, or the No. 16 could now, in fact, be his – one to keep an eye on.
Missing Youngsters Signal Club’s Intentions
With the majority of Liverpool’s first-team still enjoying the final few days of their summer break, a host of youngsters were expected to be drafted in.
The likes of Ben Woodburn, Rhian Brewster, Nat Phillips, Hoever, Anderson Arroyo and Curtis Jones were present, but it was those who failed to make an appearance which spoke volumes.
Adam Lewis was widely expected to be handed an opportunity as the search for Andy Robertson‘s understudy continues in his absence.
But, he is unlikely to be given a look-in as he was not part of the squad on the first day of pre-season and was likely to have linked up with the academy instead.
Pedro Chirivella and Ovie Ejaria were also missing which offered the clearest indication yet that the pair are set for an imminent departure, with the latter linked with a return to Reading.
Reds in Tip Top Shape
We noticed abs, lots of abs – making it abundantly clear that the players have a low body fat percentage as they were on show from every direction.
They’re European champions and had every right to indulge over the off-season, but if the images from the players’ movement screenings are anything to go by then they’re all returning in a healthy condition.
#LFCPreSeason starts now! ? pic.twitter.com/BgcQHzHuwl
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 6, 2019
And how nice is it to see Oxlade-Chamberlain back fit and involved again from the off in what will be an important pre-season for Liverpool’s new No. 15.
Klopp Needs More Players
Liverpool’s first pre-season fixture is on Thursday and between now and then Klopp needs to welcome back more players as he would have struggled to name a starting XI from those present on Saturday.
The Reds had just 16 players return to action and Klopp will need that to change in the coming days if he is to stick with fielding two starting XI’s in pre-season as he has done so in the past.
With Alisson currently preparing for the Copa America final with Brazil, Simon Mignolet still on leave and Caoimhin Kelleher ruled out of action for six weeks, the Reds were left with no goalkeeping options.
While it has yet to be confirmed, the situation suggests the rest of the players who were on international duty for the Nations League, European Championship qualifiers and friendlies will make their way to Melwood imminently.
Next wave of players expected to return: Henderson, Robertson, Van Dijk, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Mignolet, Alexander-Arnold, Origi, Shaqiri (fitness allowing).
* Photos via Liverpool FC Instagram story