The Liverpool full-back duo in line for big opportunity in pre-season

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Liverpool will be without Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Neco Williams in the first weeks of pre-season, which hands a big opportunity to a young duo.

The Reds will report back to Kirkby on July 12, the day after the final of this summer’s Euros and in line with the climax of Copa America.

Whether or not those involved make it all the way, Liverpool’s internationals will be given an extended holiday following their participation – with it customary that at least a three-week break is taken.

It remains to be seen whether Scotland or Wales will progress beyond the group stage of the Euros, but they are unlikely to be part of the initial group working under Jurgen Klopp for pre-season.

Meanwhile, Alexander-Arnold is still recovering from a quad injury that ruled him out of the England squad, and while it is hoped that he will be back fit in time for day one, a cautious approach will be taken.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 20, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 238th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. Everton won 2-0, the club’s first win at Anfield since 1999. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Elsewhere throughout Klopp’s squad, Jordan Henderson, Thiago, Diogo Jota, Roberto Firmino, Fabinho, Alisson, Xherdan Shaqiri and Harry Wilson will also be missing.

A strong senior contingent, hopefully including Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip, should be available to Klopp, but the manager will turn to his academy ranks for tests and training sessions.

Typically, those called up are also given an opportunity in warmup friendlies, with Billy Koumetio one of those to benefit last summer as he featured against Stuttgart, Salzburg and Blackpool.

This time around, it could be the chance for young full-backs Conor Bradley and Owen Beck to impress and prove they are worthy of a long-term role.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 21, 2020: Liverpool's Conor Bradley takes a throw-in during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Southampton FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. The game ended in a goalless draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Neither will be players Klopp is not familiar with, having trained on a number of occasions at Kirkby throughout the campaign just gone.

They were among the youth cohort drafted in for the intra-squad friendly during the March international break, with Bradley pulling double duty as he played for both the ‘home’ and ‘away’ sides.

Beyond their sporadic involvement in training, the duo have been forming a solid partnership as first-choice starters for the under-23s, while Bradley also played five of six games on the under-18s’ road to the FA Youth Cup final.

Both are of a similar profile, as enthusiastic defenders with a real thrust in the final third, with Beck the left-back and Bradley the right-back in Liverpool’s academy tandem.

In 22 appearances last season, Beck scored once and teed up five goals – including a hat-trick of assists in a 4-3 loss to Tottenham – while Bradley netted one and assisted three in 23 outings.

SEAGRAVE, ENGLAND - Monday, May 10, 2021: Liverpool's Owen Beck during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Leicester City FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's at the Leicester City Training Ground. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given both will be only 18 by the time pre-season starts, it is hugely encouraging that they are not only already performing to a high standard with the U23s, but also that they have been trusted to train with the first team on a semi-regular basis.

It certainly bodes well, and in the absence of Robertson, Williams and possibly Alexander-Arnold, it would not be a surprise to see the pair start together throughout the summer.

Though it would be wrong to expect too much, Beck and Bradley only need look to the progress of Klopp’s current right-back duo as proof it can be done.

Williams in particular was a surprise candidate to rise from the academy, but with the Welshman expected to push for a £10 million exit this summer, a spot could open up for Bradley behind Alexander-Arnold.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, March 13, 2021: Liverpool's Conor Bradley celebrates after scoring the equalising goal during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and West Ham United FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bradley, still only 17, has gone from strength to strength since arriving from Dungannon United in 2019, and will be eager to build upon his shock taste for senior football, having made his debut for the Northern Ireland national team against Malta in May.

That may not even have been the teenager’s biggest test of the season, having found himself up against established wingers in Premier League 2, including Arsenal‘s Reiss Nelson.

Meanwhile, on the other flank, Beck could look to the first-season struggles of Kostas Tsimikas and challenge the Greek for a squad berth ahead of a campaign that should hopefully afford Robertson more rest than last time out.

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 28, 2020: Liverpool's Owen Beck during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Manchester City FC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He could even seek advice from a legendary relative, with the Wales under-21 international a great-nephew of Ian Rush.

Beyond Beck and Bradley, there are other full-back options for Klopp to run the rule over in pre-season, with left-back James Norris having excelled upon his return from injury with the U18s, while Sean Wilson is another promising talent at right-back.

But it is the Welshman and the Northern Irishman who look best-placed to capitalise if Liverpool are short on the flanks of their defence ahead of 2021/22.

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