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.
In Austria, Klopp has a strong contingent of players made up of senior members and youngsters.
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.
Liverpool’s likely squad vs. Stuttgart
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
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.
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.
Adrian; Hoever, Phillips, Koumetio, Tsimikas; Milner, Grujic, Jones; Elliott, Minamino, Brewster
Kelleher, Karius, Van den Berg
The options beyond the aforementioned XIs are slim from the substitutes’ bench, with two goalkeepers taking up spots.
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.