We are a week away from Liverpool’s first game of the 2021/22 pre-season camp.
First up is a game against Austrian second-tier side Wacker Innsbruck at 5pm, before a more difficult task against German outfit Stuttgart at 5.45.
It is hard to know what sort of XI’s will take to the field in each game. Jurgen Klopp has a total of 34 players to choose from, assuming everyone is fit.
We assume that it will be two completely different sides.
Klopp may decide to play a weaker team against Wacker Innsbruck before playing what he may count as his strongest available side against Stuttgart.
So, we want to take a look at exactly what the strongest available side, or perhaps just the team we want to see, is.
Of course, we are not yet sure about the fitness of certain players. It is possible that the centre-back’s that were out for a while will not be ready to play a game yet.
But we will act like they are fit for the sake of this piece.
This is the Liverpool XI that we here at RTK want to see play against Stuttgart a week from today.
First off, we want to see Caoimhin Kelleher in goals.
Hopefully, we will get a look at Marcelo Pitaluga at some stage, but we want Kelleher for this one.
A 30-minute game is perfect for Trent Alexander-Arnold at the moment, if he is able for it. He needs this game to get back up to speed, although we do want to see how Conor Bradley looks in a first-team back four in the later games.
At left-back, Kostas Tsimkas is the only real option. It will be good to see him getting a game in a strong back four, which he never got the chance to do last season.
Unfortunately, we can only play two centre-backs. We want to see all of them play for different reasons, but there can only be one ideal pair for this game.
That is Virgil van Dijk and Ibou Konate.
Everyone wants to see how van Dijk looks after his injury. Is he going to be the same player as before immediately?
As with every new signing, we cannot wait to see Konate in a red shirt. Especially beside van Dijk.
Again, we want to see Joe Gomez and Joel Matip for the same reasons as van Dijk. Ben Davies is still an unknown quantity, plus how will Nat Phillips, Rhys Williams and Billy Koumetio look partnering someone in the world-class bracket?
But that is for later games. Right now, it has to be van Dijk and Konate at the heart of the defence.
With Fabinho, Jordan Henderson and Thiago not due back for another while, and Gini Wijnaldum having left the club, there are not many options to play at No 6.
James Milner can do it, but it is not his best role.
So, why not give Marko Grujic the chance to add something to his transfer value?
He has the height and energy of Fabinho, so it is a like-for-like replacement.
Alongside him has to be Naby Keita. 2021/22 will be his last chance at Anfield, so he has to start it off well with a good pre-season.
The final man in midfield is one of three players – Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones.
We will go with Oxlade-Chamberlain. Klopp trusts Milner and Jones defensively at the moment, so this is a chance for the injury-prone star to prove that he can be reliable.
When they are on top form, Keita and Oxlade-Chamberlain can be an excellent partnership in front of the holding-midfielder.
Every one of this midfield three has a point to prove, so let’s see them try to prove it.
We want to see Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah against Stuttgart.
We can see arguments for the likes of Mateusz Musialowski and we do want to see him later in pre-season.
But considering that we want to see the strongest-possible side in this match, Mane and Salah have to play.
The question is, who joins them in the front three?
For us, it is Harvey Elliott. This pre-season, he has the chance to prove that he belongs in the first team in 2021/22.
It is all well and good seeing fringe players and youngsters playing alongside each other. But for us, you only really learn about them when they are playing with world-class regulars.
So, let’s see Elliott playing with Salah and Mane. He can play off the right, with Salah through the middle and Mane on the left.
It is a front three that we could easily see in competitive action next season.
If the teenager impresses and creates a few chances for his partners, he could well force his way into Liverpool’s plans.
Full Liverpool XI to play Stuttgart
Here is our team in full to play against Stuttgart in the first big game of the 2021/22 pre-season:
Kelleher; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, van Dijk, Tsimikas; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Grujic, Keita; Elliott, Salah, Mane
For the sake of it, here is the team that we would play against Wacker Innsbruck in the first game:
Pitaluga; Bradley, Gomez, Davies, Beck; Jones, Clarkson, Milner; Minamino, Awoniyi, Origi
You can watch both games next Tuesday on LFCTV GO.