Liverpool’s pre-season is well underway, with a month-long training camp in Austria making up the bulk of the Reds’ preparations for the new season.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side have played two games so far (well, three if you include that the opener was two 30-minute games vs. different opposition) and have three more lined up before the opening game at Norwich on August 14.
Next Thursday (July 29) sees Hertha Berlin as the opposition at the Tivoli Stadium in Innsbruck, followed by a return to Merseyside and then games against Spanish opposition Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna on August 8 and 9.
That leaves nine days between the games against Hertha and Bilbao – at a time when pre-season will be hitting its peak period. In a normal summer, there would not be such a gap.
Indeed, typically Klopp would have seven or eight friendlies in a pre-season, and thus far this summer is to feature five.
It’s quite possible then that Liverpool will seek another friendly between those games, which would give valuable playing time to the players returning from the Euros such as Diogo Jota and Andy Robertson, plus potentially Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.
Klopp has said that Thursday’s game against Hertha is unlikely to see the centre-back duo in action, but another game in that nine-day gap could provide an opportunity.
Another game before the Anfield friendlies would also allow Thiago, who should return later next week, a chance to slowly build fitness.
Liverpool had previously held talks with Lyon over a friendly this summer to honour Gerard Houllier but this has faced difficulties due to restrictions between the UK and France.
Liverpool’s pre-season plans have been fluid and announced late due to the ongoing pandemic, with the games against Bilbao and Osasuna only confirmed once UK restrictions were confirmed and local authorities signed off on 75 percent capacity at Anfield.
Those two games will act as test run for the Reds’ first game of the season at home, against Burnley on August 21. It’s still not clear if that will feature a full capacity, or continue at around 40,000.
While Liverpool’s pre-season plans are slightly less planned as usual, they are significantly better than other Premier League sides.
Man City have just one friendly scheduled before the Community Shield, that being against Preston this week coming, while Chelsea are also yet to play a match and have just three games scheduled – two of them being against London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.
Liverpool had previously discussed games against Man United, Newcastle or Aston Villa, but once UK government allowed exemption for elite teams from amber countries these were scrapped, with Klopp preferring not to face Premier League rivals in pre-season.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have been forced to scrap their plans to head to Florida due to a covid outbreak – although Everton have still headed to the Sunshine State (minus their assistant manager due to his criminal record).