Football

No lack of centre-back options for Liverpool now

Konate set to make debut, while van Dijk, Matip and Gomez are back in the fold

Having gone through last season with a centre-back crisis, Liverpool midfielder James Milner found himself embracing a "strange" situation in pre-season, with "top-class centre-halves all over the place".

Long-term casualties Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez are back in the fold as the Reds hunker down in Austria for a pre-season training camp, while new signing Ibrahima Konate is also set to make his first Liverpool appearance.

When asked by the Reds website for his impression of the 1.94m Konate, who is having his first week of training with the Reds since a 41 million euro (S$66.2m) move from RB Leipzig in May, Milner said: "Very good. He certainly looks like a central defender.

"He's obviously very strong, he's good on the ball, a very good defender positionally."

Milner, 35, added that "it's a strange situation", saying: "You obviously go from last season not having too many centre-halves and now we've got top-class centre-halves all over the place.

"It's fantastic. Nat (Phillips) is obviously here and Davo (Ben Davies), Rhysy (Rhys Williams) obviously and all the guys in there - it's a great standard of centre-half that we've got, with everyone pushing each other, and that's exactly what you need."

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp confirmed that Konate, 22, will make his first appearance for the Reds when they play back-to-back 30-minute matches against Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart on Wednesday morning (Singapore time).

Matip and right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are in the frame to return to the pitch for the friendlies, while Gomez and van Dijk will be assessed.

"It's different (for each of them)," Klopp told the club website. "I think there is absolutely no doubt Joel can play on Tuesday. Trent looks for me like (he can) but I will have to speak to the medical department and they will tell me if it is too early."

Liverpool, who finished third in last season's English Premier League, start their new campaign with an away match against Norwich City on Aug 14.

Football