Liverpool are warming up to the demands of the upcoming campaign at their pre-season camp in Austria, where as many as 34 players have assembled under Jurgen Klopp. Although many of their key personnel, including captain Jordan Henderson, are on holiday after exploits with their national teams in continental competitions, the pre-season party is not short of star names.
The likes of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joel Matip are all being put through their tailored rehabilitation schedules after returning from injuries. Summer-recruit Ibrahima Konate will also look to settle in quickly at Liverpool before the hustle and bustle of the Premier League season.
Salah and Mane are back for Liverpool
Despite the absence of Roberto Firmino, who was part of the Brazil side that finished runners-up in the Copa America, both Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane are back with the group.
Undoubtedly, such regular first team stars will play an integral role in whatever Klopp has laid down for Liverpool to achieve in the upcoming campaign. But pre-season also offers an opportunity for several forgotten men and young prospects to try and convince the manager about their abilities.
Without further delay, let's focus on five players who are in desperate need of impressing Klopp during pre-season with Liverpool.
#5 Loris Karius
Three years on from that dreadful night in Kiev, Karius is still a Liverpool player. But for most of his current teammates in pre-season, the 28-year-old is a stranger, having spent each of the last three seasons away on loan.
Yet he is still there, lurking in the background, completely out of the picture but sheepishly awaiting a decision on his future. Whatever happened against Real Madrid in the Champions League final was unfortunate. However, it feels as if there is no going back for Karius.
Although he did battle out certain difficult phases throughout his two-year loan spell at Besiktas, the Turkish giants were still interested in activating the clause to buy him permanently. Unfortunately, after the onset of the pandemic, Karius returned to Anfield following a dispute over unpaid wages in Istanbul.
Last season he went on loan to Union Berlin in the Bundesliga. In what was an outstanding season for the club, who finished seventh and secured their berth in the UEFA Europa Conference League, Karius was unable to displace 34-year-old Andreas Luthe as first-choice goalkeeper and made just four appearances.
With just one year remaining on his contract at Anfield, there is little hope in terms of Karius' future at Liverpool. But then again, Adrian has not been entirely error-free in his Liverpool career and Karius will certainly feel he deserves a shot at redemption. Wherever his future lies, it is imperative that Karius regains his confidence. He just can't let that one moment define the rest of his career and it is now or never, truly.
#4 Ben Davies
Davies has had quite the ride in the last six months. From being called in to address Liverpool's injury concerns at the back to not getting an opportunity to make his debut, the former Preston North End star has lived through it all.
The 25-year-old will consider it a huge disappointment if Liverpool do intend to offload him, especially with the arrival of Ibrahima Konate. There is considerable interest from Sheffield United, who were relegated to the Championship last season.
Pre-season will be an excellent opportunity for Davies to try and force his way into the picture. Previously, Klopp has trusted the likes of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams over him but Davies will certainly feel he deserves the chance to cut his teeth in pre-season before the Reds take the final call.
#3 Marko Grujic
In a parallel universe, Grujic should ideally be well-placed to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, who has left Liverpool on a free transfer. However, as things stand, the Croatian will still have to prove himself in pre-season, yet again.
When Klopp signed him from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, there was plenty of promise. The energetic box-to-box midfielder even lit up pre-season that year, scoring from distance against Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic in addition to his header against Barcelona.
But he was soon deemed surplus to requirements at Liverpool and has subsequently spent time on loan at three different clubs. At 25, Grujic will feel he is no longer a prospect with a bright future anymore. The midfielder notched up 39 appearances in all competitions for Porto last term and would surely demand clarity on his future.
There are other players who can also put their hand up to replace Wijnaldum in the current Liverpool side and as such, Grujic will have to produce something similar to his first ever pre-season with the club in order to force his way into Klopp's plans.
#2 Takumi Minamino
Following his switch from Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Minamino failed to integrate himself quickly into the first team at Liverpool. The Japanese forward eventually secured a loan move to Southampton during the winter transfer window and earned valuable minutes under his belt last term.
Considering the pandemic and the challenges brought by it, Minamino had to face difficulties in terms of acclimatizing to life in England. However, the 26-year-old could be as good as a new signing for Liverpool in the upcoming season if he can really put his head down and work hard in pre-season.
The fact that he can play anywhere in the front-three will also help his cause in pre-season. At his best, Minamino will fit in like a glove with Klopp's system. The forward works hard, can press and has also played as a false-nine before. It will be interesting to see where his future lies, especially since he is not really indispensable at Liverpool either.
#1 Taiwo Awoniyi
Nobody has had to wait longer than Awoniyi to earn his chance in pre-season for Liverpool. The Nigerian striker joined the Reds back in 2015 but has spent each of the last six years away on loan after failing to earn a UK work permit.
Now that he is finally here, Awoniyi couldn't have arrived at a better time. Both Firmino and Jota are yet to join the pre-season party and the 23-year-old will certainly feel he deserves a chance to showcase what he can do.
Divock Origi is unlikely to have a significant role to play at Liverpool in the long-term, with the club even open to listening to offers. Having racked up 139 appearances during his loan spells spread out across Europe, Awoniyi is more than capable of being an understudy to the more prolific and experienced forwards at Liverpool.
There is interest from several clubs in England to try and get him on loan and that could well be the way forward for him. But having waited for as long as six years, it is safe to say Awoniyi will be desperate to try and make the most of pre-season under Klopp.