Liverpool’s preparations for the new season and the first match of its United States tour against Chelsea at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday have been disrupted after defender Mamadou Sakho was sent back to Merseyside. The defender, who was with the rest of the squad in the U.S. despite still recovering from an Achilles injury, was told to continue his rehabilitation in Liverpool reportedly because of a poor attitude around the training camp.
The development puts Sakho’s Liverpool future into considerable doubt and is the second controversy involving the France international in the last few months. In April he was accused of failing a doping test, causing him to miss the Europa League final and Euro 2016, before he was cleared of wrongdoing by UEFA earlier this month.
It is far from an ideal scenario for Jurgen Klopp as he builds toward his first full season in charge at Anfield and attempts to guide the club back into the Champions League. After taking over last October, Klopp led Liverpool to some impressive victories as he began to implement his high-octane style, but the campaign ultimately ended disappointingly, having followed up finishing eighth in the Premier League with defeat in the Europa League final.
In part because of the lack of Champions League action as well as Klopp’s stance of targeting players that fit his system rather than just simply going after the biggest names, Liverpool’s transfer business so far this summer has been somewhat underwhelming. There has, though, been significant turnover.
As well as defender Joel Matip, signed on a free transfer from Schalke, Klopp has brought in Sadio Mane from Southampton, Newcastle midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Estonian center-back Ragna Klavan and young German goalkeeper Loris Karius. Meanwhile, Joe Allen has just become the latest player to go the other way, joining Jordan Ibe, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure in exiting Anfield.
With Emre Can joining up with the squad in Los Angeles on Tuesday, after being given extra time off following Euro 2016, Klopp now has his whole squad out in the U.S., with the exception of Sakho.
Liverpool has already played four matches, all victories, in a preseason that will be crucial for Klopp as he looks to fully implement his philosophy and build the fitness required for his intense pressing style. The tour of the U.S. is also key for Klopp’s counterpart in Pasadena, California, on Wednesday, Antonio Conte.
After a disastrous defense of its Premier League title last season, eventually finishing 10th, Conte has been charged with revitalizing Chelsea’s squad and immediately guiding it back to the Champions League. After showing his expertise when guiding an Italy team short on talent to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, he has quickly got down to work at Stamford Bridge. N’Golo Kante has been snapped up after playing a hugely significant role in Leicester City’s shock Premier League title win last season, while young Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi has also arrived.
Conte is thought to be targeting several more signings, meaning that several current players will have to prove that they merit a place in his plans for the upcoming season. Several of those in the 30-man squad that has traveled to the U.S. have returned from loan spells away from the club, with their futures still in doubt.
Among those is Victor Moses, who has now been at the club for four years but has spent three of them out on loan, including one at Liverpool. The winger has started both Chelsea’s preseason games so far, a defeat against Rapid Vienna and then 3-0 win over Wolfsberger, and is eager to make a positive impression.
“I came back to start my pre-season early with the group of players who had been on loan last season, which helped as well, but to be honest, I just want to enjoy my football,” he told Chelsea’s website. “I want the fans to be able to recognize I am doing something good for the club but at the same time I want to work hard for the team and make sure we win games.
“We have played two games so far so we still need to get our fitness up and we have a game coming up against Liverpool which is going to be good for us.”
Chelsea Squad For Liverpool Match
Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begović, Jamal Blackman, Nathan Baxter
Defenders: John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma, Baba Rahman, Ola Aina, Matt Miazga, Michael Hector, Fikayo Tomori
Midfielders: Nemanja Matić, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Cuadrado, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathaniel Chalobah, Kenedy
Forwards: Diego Costa, Michy Batshuayi, Pedro, Loic Rémy, Bertrand Traore, Victor Moses, Tammy Abraham
Goalkeepers: Simon Mignolet, Loris Karius, Alex Manninger
Defenders: Nathaniel Cyne, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno, Andre Wisdom
Midfield: Jordan Henderson, Emre Can, Marko Grujic, Georginio Wijnaldum, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Lazar Markovic, Kevin Stewart, Sheyi Ono, Cameron Brannagan
Forwards: Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi, Sadio Mane, Danny Ings, Christian Benteke
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Time: 11 p.m. EDT