KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES, ENGLAND - Friday, September 24, 2021: Liverpool's Mateusz Musialowski celebrates after scoring the second goal during the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Chelsea FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's at the Kingsmeadow Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool U21s line up Championship friendly as part of senior double-header

Liverpool have already finalised their pre-season schedule for the first team, and their new-look under-21s will also be taking on senior opposition this summer.

A change to the academy system ahead of 2022/23 has seen the age limit drop from 23 and 21, though the number of over-age players permitted in any side has risen from three to five.

It brings Premier League 2 more in line with how Liverpool already operate, with academy director Alex Inglethorpe explaining: “If you look at our U23s side, the average age of the team is 18.94.”

“Really,” he added last month, “it’s an U19 league.”

The end goal is still to prepare youngsters for the step up for first-team level, and this will be aided by the introduction of Jay Spearing in a new player-coach role across the age groups.

Liverpool are also in the process of finalising a busy warmup schedule that will already see their U21s take on two senior sides.

The U21s are set to face Championship outfit Wigan at the DW Stadium on July 12, before a trip to Aggborough to take on National League side Kidderminster Harriers on July 22.

  • Wigan (A) – July 12, 7pm – DW Stadium
  • Kidderminster Harriers (A) – July 22, 7pm – Aggborough Stadium

  • WIGAN, ENGLAND - Sunday, July 17, 2016: Liverpool supporters set off red smoke bombs as they celebrate the first goal against Wigan Athletic during a pre-season friendly match at the DW Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

    Both friendlies will be played in front of sizeable crowds, as part of their opponents’ pre-season fixture list, which gives the young Reds another valuable experience ahead of the new campaign.

    Spearing has been predominantly brought in to work with the under-18s in training, but will be available as an over-age player for the U21s, too.

    Inglethorpe has already earmarked the EFL Trophy, in which the U21s take on senior opponents from League One and League Two, as a likely avenue for minutes for the 33-year-old.

    Liverpool are yet to win a single game in their three seasons in the tournament – currently known as the Papa John’s trophy – so far, and have been drawn against Accrington Stanley, Rochdale and Salford City this time out.

    It stands to reason that the more exposure the Reds’ academy players are afforded against experienced professionals will only aid their development.

    This time out, that will begin in pre-season, though it remains to be seen which youngsters will be involved with the U21s throughout the summer.

    SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND - Monday, August 23, 2021: Liverpool's Rhys Williams during the pre-match warm-up before the Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Everton FC Under-23's and Liverpool FC Under-23's, the Mini-Merseyside Derby, at Haig Avenue. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

    Rhys Williams, Kaide Gordon and Luke Chambers were part of the initial group to report back to the AXA Training Centre for day one of pre-season with the first team, and are due to be joined by Sepp van den Berg later this week.

    It is likely that Tyler Morton, Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain will be among those also involved, while Conor Bradley, James Balagizi, Billy Koumetio and Marcelo Pitaluga have already left on loan with Owen Beck soon to follow.

    Curtis Jones, Fabio Carvalho, Harvey Elliott and Calvin Ramsay are all eligible, of course, but will be full-time members of the senior squad.

    Nevertheless, whichever academy talents who line up for Barry Lewtas‘ U21s against Wigan and Kidderminster Harriers will be in line for an invaluable test of their progress heading into 2022/23.