Liverpool under-23s head into 2020/21 on the back of four wins and a draw in pre-season and prepare for an opening Merseyside derby with a new manager at the helm.
The young Reds put Carlisle, Derby U23s, Nottingham Forest U23s and Huddersfield B to the sword in their warmup friendlies, along with a 2-2 draw with The New Saints.
With 15 goals scored and just five conceded, it was a productive summer for the incoming coach Barry Lewtas, who takes over from Neil Critchley after a promotion from the under-18s.
Lewtas will retain the core of last season’s squad, along with a host of players plucked from his successful young side from 2019/20, following a second-placed finish in the U18 Premier League.
Here’s who is likely to be in the U23s group for the new campaign.
The most likely option to begin the campaign as No. 1 is Vitezslav Jaros, who endured an injury plagued season last time out but is now back as a regular starter.
He will be provided able competition by Ben Winterbottom, however, with the former Blackburn stopper signing a new contract with the club in July having impressed as Jaros’ stand-in.
Lewtas could even call upon a new goalkeeper as the season runs on, though, with Liverpool considering moves for Javi Cendon and Marcelo Pitaluga, as they look to increase their depth between the sticks.
With the transfer window running into the season, it is difficult to determine who will still with Liverpool’s U23s by the time the extended deadline between the Premier League and Football League arrives on October 15.
Their departures would facilitate a shift in the ranks from the U18s, with Owen Beck and James Norris the most likely to be promoted, whether on a permanent or short-term basis.
Billy Koumetio is expected to feature prominently for Lewtas’ side this season, though, and the Frenchman could find a new partner in Rhys Williams, who impressed on loan at Kidderminster Harriers last time out.
Lewtas finds a blend of potential and experience in his midfield options this season, with Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain the outstanding talents at his disposal.
Their creativity and finesse will be complemented by the industry of the likes of Liam Coyle and the returning Abdi Sharif, who missed the entire 2019/20 campaign through injury.
Herbie Kane is expected to leave, but Elijah Dixon-Bonner and Dal Varesanovic could offer the U23s real ingenuity moving into the final third.
As with the rest of the squad, one player who has featured throughout pre-season is not likely to stay for the campaign proper, with Liam Millar poised for another move.
Lewtas has Paul Glatzel as his leading man again up front, however, and the 19-year-old’s return from injury could see him join Koumetio, Hoever, Van den Berg, Jaros, Clarkson and Cain among those training with the first team on a regular basis.
Fidel O’Rourke has stepped up from the U18s and made a lively start in pre-season, as has Jack Bearne, with the versatile forward on course for a more impactful run this time out.