Inside Liverpool’s return to training: Reds report back ahead of Premier League restart

Liverpool have begun their return-to-training programme, with players now reporting back to Melwood for individual sessions, with every precaution taken to ensure safety.

It is a slow process for clubs across the Premier League, as the anticipated return to action is debated over a series of video conferences, while heeding advice from the government.

The latest address from the prime minister saw certain restrictions relaxed, but the period of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic will continue, despite many being urged to return to work.

“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work,” Boris Johnson attempted to explain on Sunday evening.

Liverpool had already invited the first-team squad to return to Melwood on a conditional basis, of course, with players permitted to attend for limited, individual sessions.

These are to be held alone, with one player able to perform running drills on their own separate pitch, while monitored from afar by a member of the club’s medical staff.

Monday marked two full months since the Reds’ last fixture—the 3-2 loss to Atletico Madrid—and saw a clutch of players report back to Melwood.

Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, James Milner and Takumi Minamino were among those to train, conducting fitness work on their own, all while following social distancing measures.

Club physio Jose Luis Rodriguez has described these as “extreme,” explaining that airport-style pathways have been established, running from the car park to the pitches, so as to avoid contact with other players or members of staff.

“They are given a timetable and arrive at different times. They have paths signalled on the floor like in airports,” Rodriguez explained.

“The player follows those signs once he leaves his car, he goes into the portable changing rooms, then he comes out and trains, does running drills.

“Then when he is done he follows a different path to eventually get to his car.”

Temporary changing rooms, showers and toilets have been established, while training ground staff provide a laundry service and club chefs produce meals to deliver to players in order to maintain their nutritional standards.

Jurgen Klopp has continued to check in with his players via Zoom, the video conferencing service, with the manager and his backroom staff present for home sessions.

This has included yoga, overseen by instructor Dianne Atherton, along with cardio and core exercises with the likes of head of fitness and conditioning Andreas Kornmayer and fitness coach David Rydings.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 22, 2019: Liverpool’s captain Jordan Henderson (C) with Andy Robertson and James Milner during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

These are crucial, of course, not solely for keeping up fitness levels ahead of a return to action as early as mid-June, but for preserving moral in a difficult period.

“We’ve been doing the Zoom chats, we’ve been doing yoga, core sessions,” Robertson told That Peter Crouch Podcast.

“Then we always get left on at the end, so the lads can have a bit of banter and stuff like that, all the staff go off.

“So I take the piss out of them a wee bit, but it’s not the same.

Adam Lallana unmuted himself once and he was breathing so heavily! We were trying to do our core session and Hendo ended up unmuting himself and saying ‘Ads, shut up, will you?’.

“I’ll put it down to Ads that doesn’t quite know how to work it!”

There is a shared belief among the squad that Liverpool can restore momentum upon the Premier League‘s restart, with nine games left to play but only six points required to ensure the title is won.

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That seems a long way off at this stage, but the blueprint has been laid out in Germany, where clubs reported back to training in small groups at the start of April, with the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga now set to begin again this weekend.

A clear obstacle to this is 2.Bundesliga club Dynamo Dresden reporting two cases of coronavirus in their first-team squad, forcing their entire staff into two-week isolation.

Brighton also reported on Sunday that a player has tested positive for coronavirus, but the message from Germany is that this is manageable while return-to-play protocol is followed.

In Brighton‘s case, this proves that testing works in these circumstances, allowing that player to then isolate without infecting any team-mates or staff.

There are a number of moral issues behind this, of course, and many more have arisen in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s latest address, particularly when it comes to workers’ rights.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 17, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 1st Leg match between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

But that is why every precaution is taking at training grounds across the country at this stage, with Liverpool yet to give the green light for team sessions.

The government are expected to permit a return to team training this week, with the Premier League due to hold talks with ministers on Thursday, while the clubs’ meeting was held on Monday.

For now, players can continue to train at home, but many are taken up the offer of undergoing fitness sessions back at Melwood, with those “extreme measures” allowing a sense of security as they head back to work.