Liverpool are in the middle of an injury crisis – and Jurgen Klopp has called on the kids.
Eight academy prospects were amongst those pictured in first-team training as Klopp’s side prepare to take on Leicester at the weekend.
The Reds are without long-term injury victims Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, whilst Mohamed Salah is set to miss out after a second positive coronavirus test on international duty.
With concerns over the likes of Rhys Williams, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, plus many of his squad on international duty, Klopp took the opportunity to check in on some of his next generation.
Young goalkeepers Vitezslav Jaros, Marcelo Pitaluga and Jakub Ojrzynski were all pictured as part of the session.
They were joined by midfielders Leighton Clarkson and Jake Cain, attackers Luis Longstaff and Paul Glatzel plus defender Billy Koumetio.
And manager Klopp has already suggested some of those players are set to bright futures with comments on their abilities in the past.
Here’s what he has said about some of the youngsters he has now called upon.
After winning the FA Youth Cup in 2019, Clarkson featured in Liverpool ’s young cup sides last season.
During pre-season, he made his mark in front of Jurgen Klopp with a late goal in their friendly win over Blackburn in June.
“It is just so nice,” Klopp said afterwards.
“Not only the goal, but when you see the situations when he came on.
“I think the first pass was between the two strikers, he got it in the No.6 position where he is calm, turns and passes the ball out,” said Klopp.
”We can teach the boys a lot, but they have to bring a lot.
“Obviously the basis for Leighton is not too bad.”
Fellow midfielder Jake Cain also caught Klopp’s eye in the same game.
“Jake [Cain] did really well, as well,” he added.
Whilst he has not said too much about the 19-year-old, Klopp has mentioned he has been impressed by him before.
“So now, the first glimpses of Neco Williams," Klopp said earlier this summer.
"Curtis, Harvey, Ki-Jana, Sepp, Yasser, Leighton, Jake Cain: all these boys have done really well.”
He has been on the bench in Liverpool’s three Champions League group games and appears to be nearing an opportunity.
Paul Glatzel was in prolific form and fired Liverpool to FA Youth Cup glory before being struck down by a serious injury in pre-season against Tranmere last year.
That came as a huge blow to his progress – but Klopp’s reaction showed how highly regarded he is as a prospect.
Klopp said at the time: “Unfortunately Paul Glatzel got seriously injured, which is a shame. He is a wonderful kid, a wonderful player, unbelievable.
“The week we saw him [at Melwood] helped already, so when he is back he will be one of my boys because I really like what I saw.”
Klopp insisted Glatzel rehab his injury at Melwood alongside the first-team and, true to his word, he is now back in the mix after he came back last season.
One man who caught the eye in pre-season was Billy Koumetio.
The French youngster, signed from FC Orleans in 2018, made his mark during the Reds pre-season tour.
He had a tough time on his first start against Blackpool before the new campaign got underway – but Klopp clearly believes he has a bright future.
After that game, Klopp said: “Absolutely (he will learn). We had some problems in the first half. [The opening goal] was a pressed ball against a very experienced player, who was stronger in that moment.
“Billy played super balls, super passes and was there. Our last line played [for the] first time together like this, it is completely fine, but we were just not high enough.
“There were many situations where I thought it must be offside, but it wasn’t offside. For one reason at least, it was not offside because we were not really in line.
“All these things, little things to learn, but 17 years old, the whole life in front of him, which is really nice.
“[He is a] big talent and, as I said, he had a few really, really good situations, but in this press ball, it was not so nice.”
Speaking back in August, Klopp spoke of his perfect plan for patience with Koumetio, before their current injury crisis which could fast-track his plans.
"The perfect situation would be that he maybe really first be with the U23s and stuff like this," said Klopp. "But a training camp is a nice opportunity for him, it's good for us to see him.
"I took him [Sunday] morning in a session because we have to make sure we don't over-do [it] with him.
”It's very important. So he was not part of the last part of the session physically but I took him aside and explained what we do there
"I think things like this help him a lot and I'm pretty sure he will make big steps. We just have to make sure that we really deal with his age group and physical demands well.”
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