8 things we’re looking forward to as Liverpool return to pre-season

As Liverpool return to pre-season training, there is plenty to look forward to seeing from Jurgen Klopp‘s squad over the next month.


After a well-earned summer break, the Reds are back.

Sixteen players will report to training on Saturday, as preparations get underway for what is hopefully another unforgettable season.

Liverpool kick off their summer schedule with the short trip to Tranmere next Thursday, before a meeting with Lyon in Geneva rounds thing off, either side of a tour of America.

Here are eight things we’re excited about seeing from the Reds in pre-season.

 

The Impact of Brewster

MADRID, SPAIN - SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 2019: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster bites his winners' medal after the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC at the Estadio Metropolitano. Liverpool won 2-0 tp win their sixth European Cup. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

One of the enduring images of the post-Champions League final celebrations was the sight of Rhian Brewster basking in life as a European champion on the Wanda Metropolitano turf.

Just 19, the striker has endured an injury nightmare but he is now fully fit and among those back on the first day.

Huge things are expected of the teenager, whose eye for goal was highlighted back in 2017 when he won the Golden Boot in England’s Under-17 World Cup triumph.

With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all not returning until after the tour of America, this is Brewster’s big opportunity.

Klopp is a huge fan of the prodigious marksman and if he can build some early confidence and showcase his talent, he could become a prominent figure in 2019/20.

 

The Return of Oxlade-Chamberlain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, May 28, 2019: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final match between Tottenham Hotspur FC and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Like Brewster, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has experienced injury hell over the last year-and-a-half, having been cut down in his prime by cruciate ligament damage.

The 25-year-old has admirably worked his way back to a clean bill of health, however, and pre-season is a pivotal period for him.

This is his chance to show that he is as good as ever, especially with Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum absent until Liverpool head to the US and Naby Keita injured.

It may feel like a tired cliche, but the former Arsenal man would feel like a new signing if he returns to the fold in a positive manner.

A productive pre-season would leave him primed to thrive in 2019/20, bringing an extra dimension to Liverpool’s midfield.

 

Wilson’s Chance to Prove His Worth

OSIJEK, CROATIA - Saturday, June 8, 2019: Wales' Harry Wilson shoots during the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying Group E match between Croatia and Wales at Stadion Gradski Vrt. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

For Harry Wilson, this feels like a make-or-break summer at Liverpool.

The forward excelled at Derby County last season, scoring 17 times, and Klopp wants to assess him before making a decision about his future.

There are clear question marks surrounding Wilson’s quality at this level, but he deserves a shot.

A number of opportunities should be provided to him in the coming weeks, as he looks to show Klopp that he possesses the end product, physicality and fitness levels to make it at Anfield.

It still feels more likely that Liverpool will accept a big-money offer for the Welshman, should one arrive, but all he can do is catch the eye as much as possible.

It will be interesting to see how he fares.

 

Van den Berg’s First Audition

The summer transfer window hasn’t exactly been a thriller so far, with Sepp van den Berg the only player Liverpool have brought in.

While the teenager isn’t the big signing many fans are hoping for, his potential is great and the Reds fought off a number of top clubs for his signature, including Bayern Munich.

Although Van den Berg is expected to be made available for academy games, he will be part of the first-team squad during pre-season.

With Joel Matip and Joe Gomez the only senior centre-backs returning to training immediately, the young Dutchman should earn some playing time in the early friendlies against Tranmere and Bradford City.

Klopp is never afraid of giving youth a chance—if you’re good enough, you will play—so Van den Berg can profit if he hits the ground running.

 

Gomez Back to Reclaim His Place

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, April 9, 2019: Liverpool's Joe Gomez during the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool may have been in two Champions League finals over the past two seasons, but Gomez has barely played a part in either run-in.

A late substitute appearance was the best he could hope for in Madrid, having seen his 2018/19 campaign halted by a broken leg.

While Matip deserves enormous praise for a commanding end to the season, Gomez’s immaculate pre-injury form was on another level.

Now that he is fit again, pre-season should allow the 22-year-old to show why he must remain Virgil van Dijk‘s centre-back partner moving forward.

Injuries have plagued Gomez’s progress in frustrating fashion, but if he can remain available for a prolonged period, the sky is the limit.

Hopefully, pre-season will show that he remains the same imperious presence that excelled between August and December last year.

 

Continued Growth of Hoever

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 9, 2019: Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and AFC Bournemouth at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Brewster has emerged as the undisputed attacking star of Liverpool’s academy, Ki-Jana Hoever is the standout defensive talent.

That’s no slight on the likes of Adam Lewis and Rhys Williams, but the teenage Dutchman looks a magnificent prospect.

Hoever made his Reds bow at the age of just 16 in January, becoming the third-youngest debutant in the history of the club, behind Jerome Sinclair and Jack Robinson.

He looked like he belonged on the big stage that night, even though Liverpool lost at Wolves in the FA Cup, and pre-season is his next chance to impress.

Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s only backup currently is Gomez, but he is a natural centre-back and Hoever arguably has an opening to become second choice.

A central berth is where Hoever’s best position will eventually lie, but to begin with he can make a name for himself at right-back.

Don’t be surprised to see Hoever flourish more than most, making him a contender for a squad place at home to Norwich on the opening night of the Premier League season.

 

Potential Tactical Tweaks

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, April 8, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (L) and first-team development coach Pepijn Lijnders during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match between Liverpool FC and FC Porto. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp will be refreshed after the greatest achievement of his managerial career, having recharged the batteries during a well-earned summer holiday.

The Liverpool boss will be hellbent on masterminding another trophy-winning campaign and he and his coaching staff will be raring to go come Saturday.

Although the return of his squad is staggered, hampering the rhythm of his preparations, there is still the potential for Klopp to play around with tactics and shape ahead of the new campaign.

Last season, the German opted to shift from a 4-2-3-1 formation back to his preferred 4-3-3 midway through the campaign—what will he have up his sleeve this time, if anything?

Will Brewster be used across the front line, as a way of proving his versatility?

Will Henderson continue as a more attack-minded midfielder? How will Oxlade-Chamberlain be utilised?

Second-guessing Klopp is never easy, so certain players could be given interesting roles throughout pre-season, and new systems incorporated.

 

Impact of Other Youngsters

BURY, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 14, 2018: Liverpool's Curtis Jones during a preseason friendly match between Bury FC and Liverpool FC at Gigg Lane. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

While Brewster, Van den Berg and Hoever may receive the most focus, other youngsters will also be auditioning during pre-season.

Centre-back Nat Phillips will be part of a 16-man strong group on Saturday, hoping to strengthen his case for a first-team role.

The likes of Ben Woodburn, Curtis Jones and Ryan Kent will feature, too, despite loan moves looming for the trio.

Due to the lateness of the Champions League final, and subsequent international commitments for numerous senior figures, these youngsters won’t have a better opportunity to impress Klopp.

Breaking into such a strong squad is going to be a big ask, but the boss will not hesitate if someone stands out.

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