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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Thursday, November 30, 2023: Liverpool's Conor Bradley after the UEFA Europa League Group E match day 5 game between Liverpool FC and LASK at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Why Jurgen Klopp was happy with Conor Bradley “struggle” at right-back

By his own manager’s admission, Conor Bradley endured a “struggle” in his first start for Liverpool in almost two years, but Jurgen Klopp saw it as a positive.

After a breakout spell away from the club on loan at Bolton and a long-term back injury, Bradley started for the first team for the first time since January 2022.

Part of the youngest starting lineup to ever represent Liverpool in Europe, the 20-year-old made his second appearance of the season in a difficult 2-1 loss at Union SG.

Bradley was heavily involved, with the fourth-most touches of any player (75), but while he contested the second-most duels for the Reds (13), he only won six of those (46.2%).

In difficult conditions on an awful pitch, Liverpool’s young full-back duo of Bradley and Luke Chambers were targeted – and often exploited – throughout.

But speaking in his post-match press conference, Klopp praised the Northern Ireland international for how he grew into the game.

“Conor is a top player, I like him a lot. His attitude is outstanding. He’s a real fighter,” he told reporters.

“Everybody in the first half, we were struggling, we lost balls in the wrong moments and then it’s really difficult.

“I would never judge a player after a game like this and say ‘OK, he’s obviously not good enough’ or whatever.

“I know how good they are, because I see them every day in training.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - Thursday, December 14, 2023: Liverpool's Conor Bradley (L) is challenged by Union SG's Cameron Puertas during the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 6 game between Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Liverpool FC at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Tonight, it’s an important experience. I don’t think any career ever started without these kinds of games, where you have to struggle, where you have to fight through, where you have to survive.

“And Conor especially did, he found a way into the game, had good moments, really good moments, and other moments where he knows he can improve.

“He has to learn, he’s still young, but that’s part of development.”

It is clear that Klopp sees a big future for Bradley in his Liverpool squad, and the manager is right to point out that few players come through without nights like this.

Even Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is the benchmark for every young right-back, suffered in his early games for the club – and that is who the No. 84 will be looking to match up to.