Football Digest: Liverpool start the season strong
Liverpool will be able to use the Europa League to experiment with their squad and hand minutes to fringe players to impress as Jurgen Klopp shapes up what his starting lineup could be. The Reds begin their group stage campaign later in September with Klopp likely to rotate and rest his star players, but it won’t be a straightforward choice for the German boss to choose which players will feature in Europe for their initial six-game schedule.
Klopp has already submitted his 25-man squad to UEFA, as it is customary to do so the day after the summer transfer window closes, with new signings Dominik Szoboszlai, Wataru Endo, Ryan Gravenberch and Alexis Mac Allister all involved.
That shows that he is taking it seriously, but he will be predominantly looking to use the competition to hand precious first-team minutes to those who haven’t been used as much in the Premier League.
The likes of Kostas Tsimikas and Joe Gomez may be resigned to playing second fiddle to the likes of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. But in being pitted against LASK Linz, Union St Gilloise and Toulouse, Klopp will likely trust his backup full-backs to come in and do a job.
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The use of Gomez to replace Alexander-Arnold could create problems elsewhere, though. Joel Matip’s fitness issues means there will always be some doubts over his availability, while Ibrahima Konate has also been hampered by injury in the past.
Gomez is fourth in the pecking order at centre-back, and if Klopp wants to use him to give Alexander-Arnold a breather, he may have to turn to his youth.
Jarell Quansah has played in pre-season and did not look out of place, and the 20-year-old demonstrated that he may be an option to use in dead rubber games or ones that Liverpool would expect to win. Failing that, Conor Bradley has also caught the eye since returning from his loan spell at Bolton and performed well in the hybrid role that Alexander-Arnold enjoys.
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In any case, it could spell bad news for Virgil van Dijk if the Dutchman was hoping to use these games to recover for the Premier League fixtures.
The 32-year-old is not getting any younger and it is imperative that Klopp keeps him fit and fresh, because when he is out of the team, the drop-off is a major concern.
Such issues are not relevant further up the field, with Klopp recruiting four new midfielders this summer in addition to having Curtis Jones, Thiago Alcantara and Harvey Elliott already at the club.
And with six senior attackers fighting for three places up front, 17-year-old starlet Ben Doak could earn a chance to shine.
The 23/24 home shirt for Liverpool pays homage to the past of the club, as well as collaborator Nike, with a strong 1970s influence. The iconic red, capped with bold white cuffs and collar really does invoke that classic Liverpool FC style while adding a cool retro touch
Klopp might have wanted one more centre-back to give him the optimum number of players to ensure Van Dijk and Konate can stay fresh.
The reality is that he will have to make do and promote some youngsters if he wishes to do that, with Quansah, Bradley and more chomping at the bit.
Klopp’s ideal Europa League starting XI: Kelleher; Bradley, Quansah, NEW CB, Tsimikas; Gravenberch, Jones, Elliott; Doak, Gakpo, Jota.
Klopp’s possible Europa League starting XI: Kelleher; Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Tsimikas; Gravenberch, Endo, Jones; Elliott, Gakpo, Jota.
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