The Liverpool under-23s head into 2019/20 with a host of top-level prospects in their midst, giving plenty of reasons for fans to follow Neil Critchley‘s side.
Kirkby is likely to play host to a much-changed side again this season, but now the U23s will be able to call upon two strikers who netted more than 25 goals apiece last term.
Bobby Duncan and Paul Glatzel were drafted into the first-team squad for pre-season, but both are likely to rejoin the academy ranks when the campaign begins.
However, the latter is recovering from an ACL injury.
Vitezslav Jaros, Sepp van den Berg, Ki-Jana Hoever, Adam Lewis, Yasser Larouci, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott also featured for the senior side over the summer, but could be part of Critchley’s group for the majority of games.
Kamil Grabara, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Ben Woodburn, Sheyi Ojo and Liam Millar have already departed on loan, while Corey Whelan, Conor Masterson, Juanma, Connor Randall, Bobby Adekanye, Glen McAuley and Rafa Camacho left permanently.
Back in April, Critchley acknowledged that he would be leading a “vastly changed,” young group, and many will be promoted from the under-18s along with Jaros, Larouci, Glatzel and Duncan.
Morgan Boyes, Neco Williams, Abdi Sharif, Elijah Dixon-Bonner, Matteo Ritaccio, Fidel O’Rourke, Jack Bearne and Luis Longstaff all featured heavily during pre-season.
There is also the added presence of Dal Varesanovic and, provided he is granted international clearance, the 18-year-old Bosnian midfielder could make a big impact in 2019/20.
The U23s begin the season at home to Tottenham on Saturday afternoon, but before then, Critchley will be leading an under-21s side into the EFL Trophy.
Many of those included in his squad for Premier League 2 should feature against Oldham on Wednesday night, and Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley later in the group stage.
This competition should provide the likes of Van den Berg, Hoever, Lewis, Williams, Larouci, Jones, Elliott and Duncan a chance to prove themselves against senior opposition.
Whether silverware in the EFL Trophy can be expected is unclear, but the U23s should be aiming for a title challenge in the league this season, along with runs in the domestic and continental cups.
There will still be occasions when Critchley’s numbers are depleted as Jurgen Klopp calls upon his young hopefuls.
But this should be considered a positive because, as ever, individual development is considered a higher priority than team success on the academy stage.
Likely Liverpool U23s Squad, 2019/20
Goalkeepers: Jaros, George, McKenzie-Lyle, Atherton
Defenders: Van den Berg*, Hoever*, Boyes, Gallacher, Lewis*, Larouci*, N.Williams
Midfielders: Christie-Davies, Jones, Coyle, Sharif, Dixon-Bonner, Varesanovic, Ritaccio
Forwards: Duncan*, Glatzel*, Elliott*, O’Rourke, Bearne, Longstaff
* Also part of first-team squad.