Full strength & new faces – Picking two Liverpool XIs for pre-season friendly vs. Stuttgart

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Liverpool will kick off their pre-season schedule with a friendly against Stuttgart on Saturday evening, with Jurgen Klopp set to continue a tradition of using two XIs.

Merely 27 days after the Reds’ 2019/20 season came to a close at Newcastle, the Premier League champions are back in action for pre-season.

The boss has a strong squad at his disposal with the condensed break and no international fixtures due to the pandemic ensuring players returned all at once, rather than a typical staggered start.

Plans to head back to Evian in France were shelved last minute after the UK government imposed a quarantine period, meaning the Austrian town of Saalfelden would be the destination of choice.

A similar headache was to befall the club with Austria added to the quarantine list, but the Reds have been granted an exemption due to their sporting commitments.

And the first of two friendly fixtures arranged for their 10-day stay sees German outfit Stuttgart as the opposition following their promotion to the Bundesliga.

With only six days of training under their belt by the time kick-off comes around, Klopp is expected to stick his tradition of fielding different lineups in either half, with a new XI taking to the field at half-time.

And this is how Liverpool could set up with two different XIs against Stuttgart.

 

Team News

Van Dijk, Gomez, on bike, Austria (Image: Peter Hartenfelser via www.imago-images.de/Imago/PA Images)

The Reds will, of course, be without Trent Alexander-Arnold as he remained on Merseyside to undergo rehabilitation for a minor issue – as did Harry Wilson.

In Austria, Klopp has a strong contingent of players made up of senior members and youngsters.

Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will not play a part in proceedings, with the latter sustaining a knee injury which forced his return to Merseyside.

The boss said news surrounding both Matip and Henderson is “very positive” but that they are yet to return to team training, where they are only likely to feature in the season proper.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi were noticeably absent from in training on Friday morning and they are doubts for the fixture.

Liverpool’s likely squad vs. Stuttgart

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Kelleher, Karius

Defenders: Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Williams, Tsimikas, Phillips, Van den Berg, Hoever, Koumetio

Midfielders: Fabinho, Milner, Keita, Wijnaldum, Jones, Grujic

Forwards: Firmino, Salah, Mane, Minamino, Brewster, Elliott

 

First-Half XI

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, June 24, 2020: Liverpool’s Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' (L) celebrates scoring the third goal with team-mate Mohamed Salah (R) during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Promoted back to the German top-flight at the first time of asking, Stuttgart will provide a nice early test for the Reds as they get back into the swing of things.

And in the first-half Klopp could look to field his strongest possible XI when considering the options he has at his disposal such is the short time frame from Saturday to opening day in mid-September.

That would mean Alisson starts in between the sticks, with Neco Williams deputising at right-back in the absence of Trent, with Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson completing a strong defensive line.

In midfield, Fabinho should start in his usual No. 6 role alongside Naby Keita and Gini Wijnaldum, a trident which last started together in the penultimate league fixture against Chelsea.

And the formidable trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino would lead the line in an XI which would look like this:

Alisson; Williams, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Keita, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane


Second-Half XI

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 30, 2019: Liverpool's Billy Koumetio during the Football League Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At half-time, 11 changes could be made to the team’s average age decrease and two Reds play their first game under Klopp.

Kostas Tsimikas would be the first, joining the club earlier in the summer from Olympiakos and offering much-needed depth in the left-back department, while 17-year-old Billy Koumetio could get a run out at centre-back.

With Matip absent from training, the youngster could be given the nod over Sepp van den Berg to partner Nat Phillips, who spent last season on loan with the German side, and will sit next to right-back Ki-Jana Hoever.

James Milner can then add experience in the middle of the park in the defensive role, with Marko Grujic, who is expected to leave on a permanent transfer this summer, and Curtis Jones providing support.

And an exciting, young forward combination of Harvey Elliott, Takumi Minamino and Rhian Brewster will be one to watch – and it would not come as a surprise if they rotated positions throughout.

Adrian; Hoever, Phillips, Koumetio, Tsimikas; Milner, Grujic, Jones; Elliott, Minamino, Brewster


Substitutes

LONDON, ENGLAND - Monday, August 20, 2018: Liverpool's unused player goalkeeper Loris Karius walks to the bench with security officer before the FA Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool FC at Selhurst Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Kelleher, Karius, Van den Berg


The options beyond the aforementioned XIs are slim from the substitutes’ bench, with two goalkeepers taking up spots.

Loris Karius has returned to the fold, at least temporarily, and will be available alongside Caoimhin Kelleher – who is the more likely of the pair to see game time.

Sepp van den Berg offers another defensive option at centre-back, where the 18-year-old could follow suit with Kelleher and feature in the final quarter-hour.

Further up the field, Shaqiri and Origi could still feature and offer their experience in the absence of their senior teammates in Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain.

While physical conditioning will not have taken too great of a hit due to the short turnaround between seasons, one can still expect that the Reds will need time to find their feet.

But the occasion marks a chance to get the ball rolling whilst offering youngsters and those on the fringes to catch Klopp’s eye with the season opener only 22 days away.

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