Liverpool’s fringe players face an intense battle for a spot in Jurgen Klopp’s squad as a number of first-team regulars return from injury in time for the new season
Liverpool are facing difficult transfer decisions regarding three defenders after confirming another loan move for Sepp van den Berg.
The Dutchman, 19, will rejoin Preston North End for the 2021/22 season after originally arriving at Deepdale on a short-term loan in February.
Van den Berg has only made four appearances for Liverpool and benefitted from regular minutes with the Lilywhites, making 16 Championship appearances last campaign.
The teenager faces an intense battle for a spot in Jurgen Klopp’s squad due to the number of fringe defenders on the Reds’ books.
Among that number are Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, who were called on time and time again last season due to a swathe of injuries.
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But with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip expected to return in pre-season and Ibrahima Konate signed for £36million, the duo are highly unlikely to resume the prominent they have grown accustomed to.
Anfield chiefs may be inclined to offload Phillips and Williams while their stocks are high, while Ben Davies is even more of a conundrum.
The centre-back joined from Preston North End on deadline day in the winter transfer window as Van den Berg moved the other way, but failed to make a single appearance for Liverpool.
As such, he may be first out of the door, closely followed by Williams, 20, who requires further game time on loan to continue his development.
Phillips, 24, is older than the other fringe defenders at Liverpool and it remains to be seen if he can nail down a spot as a back-up to the likes of Van Dijk, Gomez and Konate.
Elsewhere, Liverpool are expected to make decisions on the futures of former academy prospects Liam Millar, Ben Woodburn and Sheyi Ojo. The Reds are also believed to have placed a £10million asking price on Neco Williams.
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It is likely there will be many more loan exits over the next few weeks following the announcement of Van den Berg’s return to Preston North End on Monday.
“I’m very pleased,” he told the club’s official website after signing a new loan deal. “I said it last season at the end that I would love to come back and I was really happy it worked out.
“I’m just looking forward to playing a whole season now and playing from the start. Hopefully I’ll see the fans very soon and of course see the players and the staff again.
“I really enjoyed last season so I’m just really excited for the upcoming season.”
Preston North End boss Frankie McAvoy – who led his side to a 13th-place finish last season – added: “We’re absolutely delighted.
“We’re very grateful to Liverpool for allowing him to come back here and obviously to Sepp for choosing to come back to us.
“He loved his time here last season. He’s a young boy learning his trade and for me he’s fitted in well with a group that made him feel welcome and a part of it.
“He came as a right centre-back. He didn’t get many games playing in that position, but he fitted in really well as a right-back and then as a right wing-back.
“I thought he was fantastic. I think he’s done really well and we’ll see how he does at right centre-back.
“What he’s got to try and do is go again for the second time and hopefully produce what I and the coaching staff believe that he’s capable of.”