Who is Jake Cain? The prolific 19-year-old in the Liverpool squad vs. Ajax

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Jake Cain has travelled with the Liverpool squad to Amsterdam and is set to be named on the bench for the Champions League clash at Ajax. But who is the young midfielder?

The Reds flew to the Netherlands on Tuesday afternoon with a 22-man squad, with Jurgen Klopp drafting in a number of youngsters to fill out his depleted ranks.

In the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, the manager has called upon Rhys Williams, while with Thiago absent due to a knee injury sustained in the Merseyside derby, Cain is now part of the Champions League squad.

Cain was among 12 youngsters to be included in ‘List B’ ahead of the trip to Ajax, with Neco Williams, Curtis Jones and goalkeeper Vitezslav Jaros also registered and travelling.

The 19-year-old is arguably the least well-known face in the group, and with Klopp able to name 12 substitutes – and use five – in the Champions League this season, Cain should be on the bench at the Amsterdam ArenA.

So who is Liverpool’s No. 64 and what can supporters expect from him?


Who?

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 29, 2020: Liverpool's Jake Cain celebrates scoring the first goal during the EFL Trophy Northern Group D match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Prenton Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cain has been on the books at Liverpool since he was a nine-year-old, and has risen through the ranks alongside close friend and fellow midfielder Leighton Clarkson.

He debuted for the under-18s at just 16, during Steven Gerrard’s time in charge, but fully established himself under the next U18s coach Barry Lewtas.

Now he is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lewtas’ under-23s, and is also a regular in first-team training at Melwood, having benefited from the arrival of Vitor Matos as elite development coach.

While the trip to Ajax will be Cain’s first taste of the Champions League, he has already made his senior debut for Liverpool, playing the full 90 minutes in the 1-0 win over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fourth-round replay in February.


Style of play

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 13, 2020: Liverpool's Jake Cain scores the only goal of the game during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Everton FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cain is a versatile midfielder who is becoming increasingly reliable as both goalscorer and creator, at his best in an advanced role supporting the attack.

After three goals and 13 assists in 30 games for the academy in 2018/19, Cain followed that up with eight goals and 11 assists in 32 outings last season.

Now, he’s already on three goals and an assist in six games this term, including a stunning free-kick against League Two side Tranmere in the EFL Trophy in September.

These numbers are important, but so too is the way in which the teenager contributes defensively, with Lewtas describing Cain as “extremely trustworthy off the ball” back in 2018.

Attuned to the demands for hard work along with the regular contributions in front of goal, it is no surprise Matos has recommended Cain to Klopp.


Future at Liverpool

BIRKENHEAD, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 29, 2020: Liverpool's Jake Cain (2nd from L) celebrates with team-mate after scoring the first goal during the EFL Trophy Northern Group D match between Tranmere Rovers FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Prenton Park. Tranmere Rovers won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Cain will not be expecting to feature against Ajax, but his inclusion at least indicates that Klopp has been impressed with his performances in the academy and his application in training.

He, like Williams at centre-back, has benefited from injuries in this case, with Thiago out and Fabinho required to fill in at the back, but he will be behind at least five others in the midfield pecking order.

Only seven months younger than Jones at 19, strangely Cain can be considered relatively ‘old’ for a breakthrough, but that is not to suggest that he cannot carve out a niche for himself in the Liverpool squad in the future.

It could be that Klopp has one eye on the long-term future in this case, with James Milner turning 35 in January and Gini Wijnaldum due to leave on the expiry of his contract next July.

These outings, regardless of whether or not he gets onto the field, could be crucial as Cain looks to make an impression.

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