CHESTER, ENGLAND - Wednesday, February 13, 2019: Liverpool's Abdulrahman Sharif during the FA Youth Cup 5th Round match between Liverpool FC and Wigan Athletic FC at the Deva Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool hint at changes to U23s squad for 2019/20 in pre-season opener

The Liverpool under-23s were held to a 0-0 draw by Crewe Alexandra in a 60-minute friendly on Wednesday, as the new squad for 2019/20 began to shape up.

The young Reds returned for training at Kirkby last week, and hosted their League Two opposition as they continue their preparations for the new campaign.

Neil Critchley oversaw a tough season last time out as his side finished fourth in Premier League 2, with the coach using 44 different players across three competitions.

Eight of the 16 to make 10 or more appearances have already left, however.

Juanma, Glen McAuley, Bobby Adekanye, Conor Masterson, Corey Whelan and Connor Randall all departed on the expiry of their contracts, Matty Virtue joined Blackpool in January and Rafa Camacho moved to Sporting CP last month.

This is set to lead to a host of youngsters being moved up from the under-18s, and many of those started as Critchley’s side took on Crewe.

ST HELENS, ENGLAND - Monday, January 21, 2019: Liverpool's Luis Longstaff during the FA Youth Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC and Accrington Stanley FC at Langtree Park. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

Rhys Williams, Morgan Boyes, Abdi Sharif, Luis Longstaff and Fidel O’Rourke were all promoted to start, while Tom Clayton, Billy Koumetio, Matteo Ritaccio, Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Jack Bearne came off the bench.

They joined regulars Dan Atherton, Neco Williams, Tony Gallacher and Isaac Christie-Davies, while Pedro Chirivella and Herbie Kane made their return from loan spells.

Liverpool appear to have dominated the clash with Sharif particularly lively, testing the Crewe goalkeeper twice, while his box-to-box runs highlighted the endurance that makes him so key to the academy setup.

But the biggest takeaway from this opening friendly is how the squad is likely to look when Premier League 2 kicks off again.

Most of this side are likely to form the core of Critchley’s group, though Koumetio, Ritaccio, O’Rourke and Bearne could move back down to the U18s.

BURY, ENGLAND - Wednesday, March 6, 2019: Liverpool's Rhys Williams celebrates scoring the fourth goal during the FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final match between Bury FC and Liverpool FC at Gigg Lane. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Centre-back Williams should be a staple in 2019/20, along with Sharif, while Boyes, Longstaff, Clayton and Dixon-Bonner could flesh out the numbers, too.

There will be further additions to this group, of course, though these are likely to come after the end of pre-season.

George Johnston, Adam Lewis, Curtis Jones, Ki-Jana Hoever, Ben Woodburn, Yasser Larouci, Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzel are all training with the first team, while Caoimhin Kelleher is injured.

Kamil Grabara is yet to return following the Under-21 Euros, while Liam Millar is also on an extended break after the Gold Cup, though it is likely they will both leave on loan.

Interestingly, neither Leighton Clarkson or Jake Cain featured, instead both starting as the U18s beat Burton Albion 4-0 earlier in the day, with Cain scoring two free-kicks.