As Liverpool’s first team competes on all fronts this season, Liverpool’s U18s side (or U19s, as it is in Europe) can no longer boast that claim.
The club’s academy side have already been knocked out of the domestic cup against Chelsea, but it is not all doom and gloom — they are still within reach of league and European glory.
On Monday morning, Liverpool’s U19 team finally discovered who they will face in the knock-out round of the UEFA Youth League, and it is an opponent that will be familiar to the club in KRC Genk, with the game taking place at Kirkby on either the first or second day of March.
Liverpool last faced Genk back in 2019 (the last time the tournament took place) during the group stages of the tournament, where the Belgian side ran out 1-0 winners at Kirkby, meanwhile Liverpool secured a 2-0 victory in Belgium.
Not many of the players involved in that game from either side are expected to feature in this one, but it promises to be a difficult tie and the perfect opportunity to bounce back from Liverpool’s last knock-out round at this level.
Late last month, Liverpool’s U18 team faced Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup. The young Reds got off to the perfect start taking a three-goal lead.
Chelsea trailed by that margin until the 70th minute when a late flurry of goals spurred a remarkable comeback and a 4-3 victory in Chelsea’s favour.
Against, Genk, Liverpool’s young academy hopefuls have the opportunity to bounce back from that result. But they will be wary of their opponents, who have cruised into the last 16 after a spectacular result against Chelsea beating them 5-1.
Albeit Genk faced a much different Chelsea side to the one that knocked out Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup with just three players who started against Liverpool also starting against the Belgians.
Still, a 5-1 result is commendable and Genk will be a difficult opponent with plenty of exciting players coming through their ranks. Kelvin Pius John and Sekou Diawara are both highly regarded and have three goals to their names in the competition already; the former also has two assists.
The likes of Luca Oyen and András Németh, have already scored goals for Genk’s first team and could also be involved making this a strong attacking side that will test Liverpool to the maximum.
But if Liverpool can overcome the challenge, they will be encouraged by their route to the final from thereon.
In the quarter-finals, they will face Juventus or AZ Alkmaar, who seem beatable opposition on paper. After that, it will be either Dinamo Kyiv or Sporting Lisbon, or Midtjylland or Benfica.
The two Portuguese teams will be tough sides to face, but on the whole, Liverpool will be pleased with the draw which will see them avoid the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund on their route to the final.
First, though, if they are to harbour any ambition though, they must overcome a step they haven’t been able to do during the last two iterations of the tournament — win a round of 16 tie.
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