Several departures in their positions have given two academy full-backs the opportunity to step up and impress with the Liverpool first team this summer.
Pre-season is always a chance for a handful of Liverpool youngsters to impress around the first team.
This summer, the likes of Harvey Davies, Fabian Mrozek, James Norris, Stefan Bajcetic, Tom Hill, Melkamu Frauendorf and Bobby Clark were included in the Reds’ tour of Asia.
However, there are two others who have been presented with a clear opportunity to stake a claim for more time around the senior squad, following the exits of a number of players in the full-back areas.
Left-back Luke Chambers, 18, and right-back Isaac Mabaya, 17, both shone in the younger age groups last season and caught the eye in the two friendlies Jurgen Klopp‘s side played on tour.
How did Chambers & Mabaya perform last season?
Chambers was a regular starter for the Liverpool under-18s last season, often wearing the captain’s armband, and also featured for the under-19s in the UEFA Youth League and the under-21s in the EFL Trophy.
The youngster showed his flexibility by switching between left-back and centre-back, though his long-term future is likely to be as a full-back.
He’s had a very busy summer, having been included in the England under-19 squad that won the European Championships in Slovakia, before being thrown straight in with the first team shortly after arriving home.
Mabaya was a midfielder in the younger age groups but played a lot of his football at right-back last season, with his ability to drive past players with pace and power making him a good fit for the role.
It is this versatility that saw Vitor Matos recommend Mabaya to Klopp when he was included in the first team’s matchday squad for the FA Cup third round clash with Shrewsbury in January.
Born in Preston with Zimbabwean heritage, Mabaya signed his first professional contract with the club in September.
Why are they stepping up now?
Chambers’ inclusion with the senior squad was no real surprise, having been name-checked by Pep Lijnders as a player he wanted to see involved in the first team’s pre-season preparations towards the end of the last campaign.
The recent loan departure of 19-year-old Owen Beck to Famalicao, means Chambers has a clear opportunity to make an impression.
He started the Reds’ first pre-season friendly against Man United in Bangkok and didn’t look out of place, before coming on alongside a host of other youngsters towards the end of the victory of Crystal Palace in Singapore.
Mabaya may not have even been included in the tour had new signing Calvin Ramsay not been sidelined with an injury.
However, with Neco Williams making a £17 million permanent move to Nottingham Forest earlier this month, and Conor Bradley being loaned out to Bolton, the Reds were in need of another right-back option while on their travels.
With Ramsay still out of action, he was included in the first session back at the AXA Training Centre following the tour on Monday.
Will they spend the season with the first team?
In reality, with Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas firmly established as the senior left-back options, the majority of Chambers’ football will come with the under-23s this season.
However, we’d expect to see him training with the first team at the AXA Training Centre a lot more often, and certainly wouldn’t rule out a competitive debut in one of the cup competitions.
The same could be said for Mabaya, who’s attacking instincts will appeal to Klopp and his coaching staff.
Those instincts were evident in the friendly against United where, in the early stages of the match, Mabaya burst past Luke Shaw and played in a dangerous cross that could easily have led to a goal.
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ramsay will be the first-choice right-back options for the upcoming campaign, but with Bradley set for a season in League One, Mabaya is next in line to step in when required.