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Liverpool duo send transfer message after enforced position change works wonders

When it comes to Under-23s football, the types of players on show for Liverpool fall into three different categories.

There are those there who have little chance of making Jurgen Klopp’s first team but could go on to play for other clubs across the footballing pyramid.

Then there are those who are on the younger side, like Tyler Morton, trying to establish themselves at that level with a view to making a first-team impression in the next couple of seasons.

And then there are those who are clearly a class above their peers, who have either played for the first team before, or at least trained regularly with them.

As Liverpool U23s drew 2-2 with Leicester U23s on Monday, having played most of the game with 10 men after Morgan Boyes was sent off after five minutes and ended the contest with nine as Morton received a second-yellow 10 seconds from full-time for delaying a restart, two of those in the latter category stood out from the rest.

Both Paul Glatzel, who has played with the first team in pre-season and could have been given more opportunities had it not been for a series of unfortunate injuries, and Ben Woodburn, who is the Reds’ youngest ever goalscorer and has been out on loan at Sheffield United, Oxford United and Blackpool, were playing for most of the time in positions different to the ones they had started with.

But it didn’t stop them being a class above.

Boyes’ red card under seven minutes in on the front pitch in Kirkby forced Barry Lewtas to switch his plans. Initially, it was a 4-4-2 diamond, with Glatzel and Fidel O’Rourke forming the front two and Woodburn on the left.

That had begun to show signs of working well for the opening spell, but then Woodburn had to move into central midfield alongside Leighton Clarkson, who was also excellent, with Elijah Dixon-Bonner moving to right-back and Tony Gallacher moving from full-back to centre-back in place of Boyes.

Woodburn’s quality is obvious. He made his senior debut at 17 under Jurgen Klopp with the German later admitting his coaching staff had taken to calling the midfielder the ‘Prince of Wales’.

Against a Leicester side battling relegation, it was clear that he would stand out, spraying passes and controlling the ball with ease, and slotting home Liverpool’s second from the penalty spot after Glatzel was adjudged to have been pulled back as a cross from the right was swung in.

But for Glatzel, a similarly talented player, it was more of a challenge, given that he was making his first start since returning from his latest spell on the sidelines with ligament damage.

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The German youth international lasted around 65 minutes, working relentlessly on the left-hand side of midfield – a position he has rarely played before, certainly at this level – working hard to help out Owen Beck at full-back.

While his defensive positioning, having never played there before, was sometimes askew, the effort and determination from the German was evident, and at the other end, he assisted Clarkson’s opener after a one-two with O’Rourke on the counter.

Glatzel could have played more than the 65 minutes he did, manager Lewtas told the ECHO at full-time.

“Paul is good and he probably could have played for a little bit longer but I was keen to get another midfield player on, and it was his first game back,” Lewtas said.

“He was playing in a different position [on the left-hand side due to the red card causing a reshuffle].

“The amount of effort he put in, that was why we took him off, but there were no injury problems and he has been training really well.

“We have not been overly cautious with him and he is in a good place, and it would have probably helped if we were playing 11-vs-11 and he was able to get a little bit closer to goal but it shows his versatility.

“He is a great kid. I know I put Elijah [Dixon-Bonner] at right-back but if I asked Paul to go there, he wouldn’t be happy, but he would play for the team!

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“He is a fantastic personality and character, great for the team, and is a real team player.

“I can’t speak highly enough about him.”

Liverpool face Leicester again next week in Premier League 2, finishing their season away from home.

For Glatzel and Woodburn, it could be the last U23s game they play for a while – or it certainly should be.

If both are fit for pre-season, which both would hope to be with the first team under Klopp, then both will draw suitors, surely, regarding possible loan deals.

On this evidence, they both need them, with U23 football simply too easy for them to navigate.

Woodburn already has experience at senior level but has been unfortunate with injuries at untimely moments, while Glatzel’s injuries have meant he has not even had the chance to go out on loan yet.

But whether in the positions they were meant to be playing against Leicester on Monday – or in the ones that they had to pick up after the early red card – both Woodburn, 21, and Glatzel, 20, have undoubtedly proven they are ready for the next step.

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