Five Liverpool youngsters hoping to stake a first-team claim in pre-season

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Liverpool will be eager to carry the momentum gained at the end of last season into the 2021-22 campaign and their pre-season friendlies will offer a glimpse into whether or not that will happen. 

Players such as Naby Keita, Virgil van Dijk and Jordan Henderson will be using the period to return to full match fitness, but it offers the club’s rising stars a chance to shine as well.

We’ve taken a look at five who will be hoping to impress Jurgen Klopp and stake a claim for a first-team spot in the coming weeks.

Harvey Elliott

Comparisons with Phil Foden have been drawn already and after his loan spell with Blackburn Rovers last season, it is very easy to see why.

In Tony Mowbray’s Championship side, the 18-year-old scored seven goals and contributed 11 assists in 41 appearances despite Rovers finishing in an underwhelming 15th place.

Klopp’s reaction to Elliott’s form at Liverpool’s pre-season training camp in Austria will be music to the attacker’s ears as well.

“Harvey made a step, I have to say. He looks in a proper shape, really, really fit,” Klopp told the club’s official website.

“He came back in a good shape and is here now in full training obviously. You can see last year really worked well for him. Now let’s make the next steps together.”

Conor Bradley 

Bradley was poached from Northern Irish side Dungannon Swifts in 2019 and the right-back has already captured the attention of the man in the dugout.

So much so that, according to The Athletic, the Red’s will not seek out a replacement for Neco Williams should the Welshman leave this summer, with Bradley viewed as a ready-made stand-in.

Starting out as a winger, Bradley was brought back into defence while playing for Dungannon and the 18-year-old has gone from strength to strength.

Prior to Euro 2020, Bradley was even given his international debut by Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough, appearing as a late substitution in a friendly against Malta.

“He’ll remember this for a long, long time and that’s what this trip is about as well – trying to give young players an education,” Baraclough said after the game.

“Whether he expected to get some game time I don’t know but he’s gone and done it and he can be very, very proud of what he’s done this week.”

READ: All you need to know about Conor Bradley, already catching Klopp’s eye

Mateusz Musialowski

A name that will no doubt give Paul Merson sleepless nights, Musialowski will be looking to put the pressure on Liverpool’s talented frontline in the coming season.

The Polish winger signed his first professional contract with the Reds after impressing in Neil Critchley’s under 23 side throughout 2020-21.

He arguably has the toughest task of any Liverpool youngster this season – displacing Mo Salah, Sadio Mane or Diogo Jota. But he is taking inspiration from the best.

“When I see the space, I just go for it,” he told the club’s official website after scoring a stunning solo effort against Newcastle United’s reserves, a strike that won him the level’s goal of the season award.

“I have seen a lot of Lionel Messi goals like that, so I try to be like him and I want to repeat it,”

Billy Koumetio

Koumetio has been a part of Liverpool’s set-up since 2018 after previously spending time with Lyon and Orleans in France.

He may only be 18, but the centre-back has already played a small part in Liverpool history having been a ball boy for the historic 4-0 win over Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final second leg in 2019.

Standing at 6ft 3in, he is a defensive prospect that is already causing Klopp huge excitement.

“Billy the kid! He doesn’t look like a kid,” the German told The Athletic during the build-up to last season.

“In my opinion, his face looks like a kid but then all the rest is like ‘Wow!’

“I told him, ‘Last time I saw you, you were like 20cm less, if I’m right’. That’s pretty special. Yes, he’s a big talent.”

He even made his first-team bow against FC Midtjylland last season and he looks well placed to capitalise should the Reds be hit by a similar injury crisis this time around.

Leighton Clarkson

Also in that starting XI against Midtjylland was Clarkson, a midfielder who will be hoping to fill the void left by Georginio Wijnaldum during pre-season.

The 19-year-old has spent his entire career to date with the Reds and signed his first professional contract at Anfield in the summer of 2020 after making two first-team appearances in the previous season.

Three years ago, the burgeoning pass-master was given some tips from a certain Steven Gerrard during the legend’s period as a youth coach at the club.

“I remember Gerrard was doing almost like a one-to-one session after the training session with Adam Lewis. So when I did go up, I was doing the same thing as Adam,” he said in an interview with the Liverpool Echo. 

“It was me, Adam and Gerrard. We were just hitting free-kicks after sessions and stuff.

“Ever since that moment, I’ve always thought in my head after my sessions, ‘Try to get 10, 20 minutes just hitting free-kicks.”

 


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