PREMIER LEAGUE

Liverpool's big defensive guns back and can't wait to start

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold is back in training and is eager to return to the field in one of this week's friendly matches.

Alexander-Arnold 'pain-free' and raring to make Liverpool return

Trent Alexander-Arnold is feeling pain-free and is eager to make his return for Liverpool this week after recovering from a thigh problem.

Liverpool winning pieces return for new season

The right-back sustained the injury during England's 1-0 win over Austria in a friendly on June 2 and was subsequently ruled out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign.

He has taken part in full training during the Reds' pre-season training camp in Austria, however, and may feature in Tuesday's 30-minute friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart.

"I'm fully pain-free. I've been doing a lot of rehab when we were off over the summer with the physios and the medical staff, which was good," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I feel fit, I feel healthy and I'm back in full training now, so it's good. It's good for me.

"I've done quite a few sessions with the lads now. I feel fit enough to play. But the decision comes from the manager, the staff and obviously the medical staff.

"They need to talk and see if it's worth the risk. If not, there's a game on Friday [against Mainz] as well.

"Whether it's a case of a few minutes on Tuesday and play a bit more on Friday, ease me in like that, who knows? Either way, I'll be ready to play."

Alexander-Arnold has been a Liverpool regular for the past four seasons and featured 45 times in all competitions in the last campaign.

He created an 14 Opta-defined big chances in 36 Premier League games last term, a tally bettered only by Kevin de Bruyne (19) and Bruno Fernandes (20), leading to seven assists.

Since making his debut in the competition for Liverpool in December 2016, only team-mate Andy Robertson (37) has laid on more assists than Alexander-Arnold (33) among defenders.

The academy product's return will therefore be considered a major boost for Jürgen Klopp, but the Reds will remain patient in their bid to get the defender up to full speed in time for their Premier League opener against Norwich City on August 14.

"If you give me the opportunity at any point to train at 100 per cent I would have taken it," the 22-year-old said.

"But there were still things we needed to do. We needed to finish off the last stage of rehab and make sure we ticked all the boxes before we put me back in. 

"And I think we've been able to do that. Now, being back in full training with the lads is good. It feels good and I feel good out there. 

"We've got a lot of players out here, a lot of numbers, so we've got enough players to chop and change and keep the intensity really high, which is vitally important in the early stages of pre-season.

"We've got to try to get as much intensity into the legs as possible and push each other as hard as we can without going too far."

Van Dijk and others back in contention

Fellow defenders Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are also closing in on a comeback after returning from injury lay-offs of various lengths.

The absence of Van Dijk for the majority of 2020-21 undoubtedly contributed to a poor campaign for Liverpool, though they did at least recover to finish third in the Premier League.

Alexander-Arnold has talked up the influence of the Dutchman, who also missed Euro 2020 for the Netherlands, both on the field and off it.

"In and around the team, he's such a big difference for us," Alexander-Arnold said. "He's an amazing guy, an amazing player. The impact he has on us is huge. 

"He knows that himself and knows the role he needs to play within the team, as a leader and as one of the captains. 

"He's a big part of the team and everyone is really pleased to see him back training and in and around the team."