All the latest off-season Reds news is brought to you by Paul Gorst in his Liverpool Notebook
Liverpool have 12 games left to salvage something from an otherwise unremarkable season.
As the final dozen fixtures approach, Jurgen Klopp and his players have only a place in the top four to fight for, but qualification for next season’s Champions League is critical to the club’s long-term health both on and off the field.
The ECHO brings you all the latest off-season Reds news ahead of a busy few weeks.
The upcoming week could make or break Liverpool’s 2022/23 season.
A trip to Manchester City on Saturday lunchtime is followed by a trip to Chelsea on Tuesday night before welcoming league leaders Arsenal to Anfield on April 8. It’s a demanding schedule that could knock Klopp’s team out of the top four race if things don’t go as planned.
Klopp and his staff have plenty of experience dealing with high-pressure situations in the final weeks of the season, even if this is not the term they envisioned for themselves back in August.
It’s difficult to quantify what constitutes an acceptable return from the next nine points on offer, and while away form has been an issue for the Reds all season, they’ve tended to up their game in the bigger games.
It’s been nearly a year since Liverpool visited Manchester City, with many predicting a title decider, and Klopp heads to Eastlands this time with no such expectations, even if the stakes remain high for Liverpool.
A Premier League victory at the Etihad Stadium for the first time since 2015 would be the ideal start to what many are calling a season-defining week.
Diaz is raring to go.
For the second time this season, Luis Diaz spent the international break rehabbing a knee injury that threatened to derail his entire Liverpool season.
Prior to being injured in a clash with Thomas Partey in the Reds’ 3-2 loss at Arsenal on October 9, the Colombia international was arguably the Reds’ standout performer in the early weeks of the season.
Diaz was so dedicated earlier this year that he used the AXA Centre’s gym facilities on scheduled days off and gave a few supporters on an unofficial tour of the venue before Christmas a memorable souvenir of their day when they ran into him during a rehab session.
Those who took the impromptu tour, which followed an LFC Foundation event earlier that morning, were taken aback to see Diaz working hard on his fitness inside the gym despite the fact that no first-team stars were scheduled to be at the base that day. It revealed how eager the winger was to get back on the field before breaking down in Dubai and being forced to retire.
Diaz has been so determined to return to the fold that he spent some of the international break training with the club’s academy ranks while also engaging in additional rehab activities. The best of the former Porto man may not be seen until next season, but he is clearly desperate to get back out there in a Liverpool shirt and help as much as he can for the final 12 games.
Search for a young center-back
The departure of Roberto Firmino this summer is unlikely to result in a replacement search. With Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz, and Darwin Nunez filling in for Mohamed Salah and Diogo Jota over the last year or so, it is understood that another attacker is not on the agenda this summer.
The midfield remains the obvious focal point, as Jude Bellingham continues to dominate the gossip columns. Mason Mount’s name has also been linked with the Reds as his Chelsea contract dispute continues.
Wolves’ Matheus Nunes is on the radar, but behind the midfield, the recruitment team is thought to be looking for a young centre-back. It is unknown whether the club will make a move this summer, but defenders with potential are being evaluated for the long term, similar to their deal for Ibrahima Konate two years ago.
Benoit Badiashile, who joined Chelsea in January at the age of 21, was seen as having potential within the Anfield recruitment bubble, while Levi Colwill has impressed this season with Brighton. Colwill, 20, is a player with a lot of potential, but it was reported this week that Chelsea want to extend his contract at Stamford Bridge, and Brighton are also interested in testing the Londoners’ resolve this summer.
Liverpool are fans of the 20-year-old Colwill and will undoubtedly be keeping tabs on his progress this summer. Another player linked with Liverpool this week is Eintracht Frankfurt’s Evan Ndicka. This summer, the 23-year-old is available on a free transfer and could join another club.