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Liverpool likely lads aiming for the top

Liverpool’s 1-1 draw in Midtjylland saw Billy Koumetio become the club’s youngest player to feature in the European Cup or Champions League, aged just 18 years and 25 days.

But the French defender is only one of a host of talented youngsters to come off the club’s academy production line.

Indeed, manager Jurgen Klopp admitted the club “would have been lost” without the youngsters as he’s battled an injury crisis which, at one point, sidelined 10 first-team players.

Here are the players who’ve made the breakthrough at Anfield this year.

Neco Williams (Age: 19. Appearances: 19)

The club’s biggest success story of 2020. With the Reds since the age of eight, an FA Cup debut at the start of the year was followed by a Premier League bow in June and he finished the season with a championship medal. This season, he’s won his first Wales cap and scored his maiden international goal in September.

Rhys Williams (Age: 19. Appearances: 8)

Started as an under-10 at the academy, the centre-back was still playing on loan with Kidderminster in March when lockdown came. Within eight months, he was making his Champions League debut as injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez catapulted him into the first team.

Leighton Clarkson (Age: 19. Appearances: 3)

With the academy since he was seven, the midfielder benefited from input from Steven Gerrard when he was on the coaching staff. He made his first-team debut as part of the Carabao Cup scratch side at Aston Villa 12 months ago when Klopp’s first team were in Qatar for the Club World Cup. An FA Cup debut followed against Shrewsbury as part of the youngest team in Liverpool’s history. Made his Champions League debut against Midtjylland.

Billy Koumetio (Age: 18. Appearances: 1)

The France Under-18 centre-back joined the academy from Orleans FC in 2018. Just over 18 months ago, he was on ball-boy duties at Anfield for Liverpool’s famous Champions League semi-final second-leg comeback against Barcelona. He was included in their Community Shield squad to face Arsenal at Wembley before injury curtailed his progress.

Caoimhin Kelleher (Age: 22. Appearances: 7)

Not in the teenage bracket but his impact has arguably been among the best. The Republic of Ireland Under-21 international joined from Ringmahon Rangers in the summer of 2015 and made his debut last season in domestic cup competitions. An injury to goalkeeper Alisson Becker, and some inconsistent performances from second-choice Adrian, saw him handed his Champions League debut in the 1-0 win over Ajax – memorable for his late save from Klaas Jan Huntelaar which guaranteed qualification.

Jake Cain (Age: 19. Appearances: 1)

Prior to making his debut in that record-breaking FA Cup tie against Shrewsbury, Cain, who joined the club as a nine-year-old, said his highlight of playing for Liverpool was missing school to go on an academy trip to South Korea. The midfielder has been included in every Champions League squad this season but has so far yet to make an appearance.

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