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Conor Bradley backed “to compete” in Trent’s absence – he’s “made for games like this”

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Pep Lijnders has credited Liverpool’s academy for helping ease an ongoing injury crisis and singled out Conor Bradley for praise ahead of a potential opportunity to replace Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The Reds have been hit with another fitness blow ahead of their League Cup semi-final against Fulham, with vice-captain Alexander-Arnold sidelined by a knee problem.

With Joe Gomez needed at left-back, a chance could be opening up for academy prospect Bradley, who impressed as a substitute against Arsenal on Sunday.

And for Lijnders, that would continue a theme that has emerged across the season so far, with smart summer spending and the club’s youth setup meaning a raft of injuries haven’t been felt too keenly.

He said: “We spent a lot of money in the summer, we really invested in the squad, the ownership brought in the right players. [We] have injuries at the moment [but] they will be back in not that long.

“I think the difference between a good season and a top season is when you are going through these phases, how the squad reacts when players are missing.

“So, Mo going, how do Jota, Cody, Darwin, Lucho, Harvey step up? And then we always believe in the academy as well.

“One thing is that you want to produce your own players, to be able to fight, to compete and to win prizes.

“The other reason why we have an academy and 250 players there running and dreaming and hoping is that in these moments where it’s harder and the season gets tough in terms of injuries, is that they can back you.

“So far they always did.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 7, 2024: Liverpool's substitute Conor Bradley prepares to come on during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Along with fellow prospect Bobby Clark, Bradley caught the eye as a second-half substitute in victory over Arsenal at the weekend.

On that cameo, Lijnders said: “Look to Conor Bradley, he comes in and [Gabriel] Martinelli comes in fresh to go one-v-one constantly.

“Conor, maybe the first one maybe not, the big diagonal, he couldn’t clear, but after that he learns, he reads and he can clear two or three.

“One-v-one v Martinelli, the first one he gets outplayed, the second one he learns and he closes the outside better. These boys, they learn at the same moment.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 7, 2024: Liverpool's Bobby Clark celebrates with manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“Conor and Bobby, they are not back-up players, they are part of our squad. They are young, hungry and they are made for games like this.

“Look what happened to Jarell [Quansah], we put him in at Newcastle when we were with 10 men, and after that he feels our trust, he knows that we really can rely on him and he makes the steps he makes.

“Young players just need opportunity, they don’t need criticism, they just need trust from the coaching staff, and that’s what we try to do. These two boys, really good, but we have more of them!”