The two academy youngsters to make the biggest impact in pre-season so far are Stefan Bajcetic and Isaac Mabaya, with the Liverpool staff full of praise for them.
So far this summer, a total of 36 players have featured for the Reds, with 22 of those clocking at least two hours on the pitch over four friendlies.
From that 22, all but two were staples of Jurgen Klopp‘s first team last season, with Bajcetic and Mabaya proving to be the surprise package of the summer.
Bajcetic, the Spanish centre-back turned No. 6, has featured in all four warmup games so far and made his first start against Salzburg on Wednesday, while right-back Mabaya played against Man United, Crystal Palace and Salzburg.
Benefiting from injuries to senior players, the 17-year-old duo have made their mark, and could have even earned a role in the first-team setup for the campaign ahead.
It is clear that those within Klopp’s staff are convinced of their potential, with Pepijn Lijnders and Vitor Matos enthusing over their performances in an interview with the club’s official website.
“We recognise a lot of talent, different kinds of profiles as well individually,” Matos explained.
“Stefan is a really balanced No. 6 and has a lot to grow as well, but how he is right now, he’s in a really good moment.
“Isaac, his physical attributes are really, really good and he’s someone that can really give life to the right side of a team.
“So that’s good. We are really happy with them.”
On Mabaya, Lijnders added: “The right side becomes a highway!”
It is no surprise that Liverpool have turned to their youngsters to flesh out the pre-season squad, as has been the case throughout Klopp’s reign, but it may come as a surprise to some how they have adjusted.
Not to Matos or Lijnders, though, with the pair particularly close to the academy setup.
Elite development coach Matos stepped into the role of liaison between first team and academy in 2019, while Lijnders himself filled the position for two-and-a-half years before returning as Klopp’s assistant after a brief spell as manager of NEC Nijmegen.
“They are still in a development point for the medium term and long term,” Matos continued.
“I think what they have done in this pre-season was something that we could say that we expected, considering the last moments of the last season.”
It is a natural progression, then, but it is certainly encouraging that Liverpool have these players available to them when they are required – which may well come in the early rounds of the FA Cup and League Cup.
With the Premier League finally introducing the five sub rule from 2022/23, too, don’t bet against seeing Bajcetic or Mabaya involved in matchday squads in the months to come.