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Who is Elijah Dixon-Bonner? The new face in Liverpool’s Champions League squad

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Liverpool have included 20-year-old midfielder Elijah Dixon-Bonner in their Champions League squad ahead of tonight’s clash with Atletico Madrid. So who is he?

The Reds’ travelling squad this week was without both Thiago and Curtis Jones, with the Spaniard still sidelined with a calf problem and the English deemed not yet fit enough.

Fabinho‘s return strengthens Jurgen Klopp‘s midfield ranks, with Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also available.

But the decision was made to include Dixon-Bonner to the squad, too, with the academy player registered on List B through UEFA prior to Monday’s midnight deadline.

It is a surprise development for a player with minimal first-team experience.

 

Who is he?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 19, 2021: Liverpool's substitute Elijah Dixon-Bonner during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC Under-23's and Leeds United AFC Under-23's at the Liverpool Academy. Leeds United won 4-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dixon-Bonner has been part of the Liverpool academy since 2015, when he made the move from Arsenal as part of an intake of youngsters that also included Rhian Brewster and Luis Longstaff.

He joined Jones in the under-16s, before stepping up as a regular for Steven Gerrard’s under-18s and, in the years since, establishing himself as a staple of the under-23s side.

From a family of Liverpool supporters, he played a vital role in the U18s’ FA Youth Cup triumph over Man City in 2019, scoring in the penalty shootout.

He has remained a valuable player for the U23s, though the rise of Jones, along with the likes of Leighton Clarkson, Jake Cain and, more recently, Tyler Morton, has seen his exposure limited.

 

Where does he play?

ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 31, 2021: Liverpool's Elijah Dixon-Bonner (R) and Rochdale's Conor Grant during the English Football League Trophy match between Rochdale AFC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at Spotland Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

He has been the definition of versatility in midfield for Liverpool’s youth ranks, playing in a variety of roles, from a deeper starting point in a two-man unit to an attacking outlook on the left flank.

His passing is sharp and inventive, while his ability to break the lines with driving runs has allowed him to score a number of goals – including a consolation against Bolton in the EFL Trophy earlier this month.

Dixon-Bonner is arguably best further forward, interchanging with the attacking line, though he is certainly not lacking the discipline to play deep.

 

What can we expect?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, October 18, 2021: Liverpool's Elijah Dixon-Bonner during a training session at the AXA Training Centre ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 3 game between Club Atlético de Madrid and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Dixon-Bonner has been on Klopp’s radar for years, often training with the first team, but his only senior outing so far came as a last-minute substitute in the 1-0 win over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup in 2020.

That came under Neil Critchley, rather than Klopp, who also included him in his squad for the 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Aston Villa that same season.

His place in Liverpool’s Champions League comes as a surprise, then, though it is almost certainly dictated by the same restrictions that allowed Harvey Davies to make his mark in training last season.

With youngsters such as Morton and James Balagizi better served with the under-19s in the UEFA Youth League, for which Dixon-Bonner is ineligible, the 20-year-old provides an extra body within the guidelines for a Champions League squad.

BOLTON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 5, 2021: Liverpool's Elijah Dixon-Bonner sees his shot saved during the English Football League Trophy match between Bolton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC Under-21's at the Reebok Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Given he spent much of the summer on trial with Portsmouth, failing to secure a move to Fratton Park, it seems unlikely at this stage that he will be part of Klopp’s long-term plans.

But stranger things have happened, and Dixon-Bonner can only hope to prove himself whenever he is given the chance.

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