Why Liverpool's pre-season plans hint at rejuvenation

Jurgen Klopp has heeded the lessons of last summer and revamped pre-season <i>(Shutterstock)</i>

Jurgen Klopp has heeded the lessons of last summer and revamped pre-season <i>(Shutterstock)</i>

JURGEN KLOPP has summed up his playing philosophy thus: “We want to attack the opponent non-stop: when we have the ball, when we lose it and when the opposition have it.”

For much of this season, Liverpool haven't looked like a Klopp side however. They have been severely disrupted by injuries and their usual intensity has been frequently lacking. This means that whatever happens from now until the end of May, the Reds will have endured a disappointing campaign.

To execute Klopp's style of play, you need high physical performance levels, with a base of fitness set in pre-season. This is why attention has already switched to the build-up to 2023/24, with lots of lessons having been learned from last summer.

After a long and gruelling season that culminated in a losing Champions League final, Liverpool went straight from pre-season testing to a tour of Singapore and games against Manchester United and Crystal Palace last year.

When asked last week what he would do differently this time, Klopp said: “I wouldn’t go in the first week to Asia. Not because Asia is not great, but I would go to Asia in the third week or something like that, but it was not really in our hands.

“Would it have been better to do it differently? Yes. We learn from these kind of things, but in the end we have to deal with them.”

This summer’s pre-season looks very different already. After facing Southampton in their final Premier League match on May 28th, club duties officially end, although many will still have international commitments. The Nations League finals take place in the Netherlands until June 18th and England’s final European Championship qualifier of the season is on June 19th against North Macedonia.

Klopp wants his players back at the AXA Training Centre as soon as possible. This means most of the players will return to Kirkby for pre-season testing on July 8th, with those who have been on international duty arriving three days later.

“We have to step up and we have to prepare that in the pre-season," Klopp said last week. "That’s why I want them back together as quick as somehow possible, respecting the necessity of holidays.

“I know that and I respect that and I want them to go on holiday for as long as possible but for this year we have to make sure we are together as soon as possible and can go from there.”

We’ve written a lot about pre-season testing, which is designed to find out players’ fitness levels after the summer break and gather data that their training programmes can be based upon.

Typically, day one of testing will be medical screening for overall health, with movement and psychometric tests, blood tests and visits to the dentist and optician. Day two will typically be performance-based, with VO2 max testing for general fitness, body composition scans and tests for speed, agility and the vertical jump.

Donaueschingen training camp

The biggest and most important change from last year's pre-season is a training camp in Donaueschingen in the Black Forest, probably from July 17th. This will be an intense week of conditioning in secluded surroundings, as opposed to last summer's trip to Singapore.

Klopp knows Donaueschingen well, having taken his Borussia Dortmund team there in 2009. His fitness coach at the time was Oliver Bartlett, who worked at Dortmund from 2008 to 2012 during a period of considerable success that yielded two Bundesliga titles and the German Cup.

Speaking exclusively to TGG, Bartlett describes Klopp’s training philosophy as “high volume, high intensity”, with a base week or two of conditioning at the start of pre-season being absolutely crucial.

"It’s the way he likes to train - long hours, two sessions a day with full concentration" Oliver Bartlett, Borussia Dortmund 2008-2012

“What I know from my time working with Jurgen - and from the players I’ve talked to since - is that he is very demanding on the physical side,” said Bartlett, who was born in London and grew up in Australia before spending most of his career in the Bundesliga.

“He does ask for a rather physically demanding type of football, his heavy metal football. You need to be able to build up this volume and intensity of training and every week will acclimatise players to this level of intensity.

“You need a certain amount of weeks to achieve this level and get a certain continuity into it. Only if you can manage to do that do you then have a safeguard of not becoming injury prone because of over-training or too high loads or too high a fluctuation in loads.

“The approach at the time (at Dortmund) was that we had the early pre-season as a more conditioning basis, with a squad that was being rejuvenated with younger players who were capable of a higher load. We focused the rest of the pre-season on a more football-focused level.

"It went from more conditioning to more football, but conditioning is a staple of pre-season for Jurgen Klopp. Klopp is definitely not the only coach who likes to put a conditioning week or two at the beginning of pre-season. It is an approach and has been successful.”

Liverpool's manager believes you build resilience by pushing players to their physical limits. The German is willing to risk potential injuries in the quest for optimum performance, as opposed to being cautious or wrapping players in cotton wool.

Bartlett, who has worked with the German national team, Red Bull Salzburg and Bayer Leverkusen, said it was easy to understand why Klopp had chosen Donaueschingen for the crucial conditioning week at the start of pre-season.

Donaueschingen is a quiet town in south-west Germany. The training centre and Hotel Öschberghof? are just outside the town.

Donaueschingen is a quiet town in south-west Germany. The training centre and Hotel Öschberghof? are just outside the town.

“It is a very nice location in the Black Forest,” he explained. “I could imagine he has good memories of this place; some good foundations were laid there at the time. It is just outside the village and is a very nice hotel (Hotel Öschberghof) with a golf course around it.

“At the time we were there there was a Scottish greenskeeper who made some excellent pitches. It’s a little bit away from the town, so you get your peace and quiet and the hotel which is basically just for you, with a good kitchen and good surroundings and not much distraction.

“I think it’s the way he likes to train - long hours, two sessions a day with full concentration on what they’re doing. As a bonus it is definitely that he has good memories and felt it had good vibes at the time, to put it scientifically!

“I’ve been there with our (German) youth national team. It is a known place to go to for German clubs and is one of the first to be booked out for training camps. It gives you good access also to other teams to play friendlies against.”

Indeed, Liverpool have already pencilled in a friendly against Bundesliga 2 side Karlsruher SC on July 19th to open their new 34,000-seater Wildparkstadion. Gradually, as pre-season progresses, Liverpool will start to focus more on tactical and game-focused work.

“We focused the rest of the pre-season on a more football-focused level," said Bartlett. "It went from more conditioning to more football, but conditioning is for Jurgen Klopp a staple of what is done in pre-season.”

Singapore trip 

Liverpool will again visit Singapore this pre-season, but now they will travel out towards the end of July, rather than near the start of the month (last year they played Manchester United in the Rajamangala Stadium on July 12th). They will play Leicester City at the Singapore National Stadium on July 30th and then Bayern Munich at the same venue on August 2nd.

Like it or not, these far-flung tours have become an important part of pre-season for big clubs like Liverpool. Last year's mini tour of Singapore was estimated to have generated between £10m and £12m for the Anfield club.

At the time, their Commercial Director Ben Latty said: "Pre-season tour is a vitally important time of year for our players to prepare for the upcoming season and it provides a fantastic opportunity to meet with fans around the world.

"Since the start of the pandemic we’ve been unable to travel for pre-season and so we’re extremely excited to be able to visit our supporters globally once again and compete in games like ‘The Match’ (against Manchester United)."

Liverpool played Manchester United and Crystal Palace in pre-season last summer

Liverpool played Manchester United and Crystal Palace in pre-season last summer

Long-haul flights can take their toll physically though, even if you're in business class. Speaking in May 2017, after Liverpool had announced they would be travelling to Sydney less than 48 hours after their final game of the season - with a return four days later - Michael Davison from the Isokinetic Medical Group said: “Long-haul travel can result in both jet lag (de-synchrony between internal circadian rhythm and local day-night schedule) and travel fatigue (the effect of actual plane travel from sitting in airline environments).

“Travel-fatigue symptoms are induced by the lower oxygen levels, dry air, prolonged inactivity and disruption of sleep patterns and nutritional intake. Teams can blunt the effects of travel with a well-planned schedule, and by utilising a specially chartered plane and customised flight times.

“Flights longer than 12 to 15 hours that are east or westward, as opposed to north-south, increase the likelihood of jet lag; especially eastward travel that arrives at night time local time.”

However, by moving the Singapore trip to later in July, with the Donaueschingen conditioning week before, Klopp believes disruption will be minimised. Bartlett said he understood this logic.

“Any form of travelling, any form of disruption in this flow of intensity can or will cause high rate of injuries, to put it simply," he said. "So I can understand Jurgen wants to get a certain physical basis in before you do any form of travel.

"If you do two weeks (of conditioning) and then travel, you might interpret it as being a more natural two weeks on, week off, lowering the load due to matches and travel, and getting another two weeks of intensity through training and matches. I can see what he means, it makes sense.”

Boom and bust?

An interesting sub plot is why Liverpool have had peaks and (relative) troughs under Klopp. After winning the Premier League in 2019/20 they finished third the following season with only 69 points. This season has again been disappointing after the highs of 2021/22, when they competed to the end on four fronts.

Does Klopp's physically demanding style of play make it difficult to sustain success, especially when Liverpool lack the squad depth and finances of their main rivals, Manchester City. This is a question Bartlett has pondered from afar.

“That is the interesting analysis - what are the factors? It might be the training, it might be the age of players, it might be a lot of things. Taking the right information and moving on from there is super exciting.

“I wouldn’t even know if it’s one factor. This is information you have if you are inside the club - the mileage, the intensity, the injuries, the amount of off time they had, what they did in the off season. Then there is a very interesting and to be interpreted question about age and decline in physical performance.

“I am sure they are looking at all these factors and trying to interpret what might have been the reason.”

He continues to hold the German in the highest regard though and believes he has revolutionised the game.

“Jurgen Klopp with his team has been able to make something special and do something which has fascinated a lot of people and made for very successful football," he said.

“Jurgen is a great people manager and was fantastic in the way he put the team together and got everyone to work for what is important. I have very fond memories, it was a very good time.”



  • May 28th: Champions League final in Paris.
  • June 14th: England’s final Nations League match.
  • July 4th: Pre-season testing at AXA Training Centre.
  • July 12th: Match v Man Utd at Rajamangala Stadium in Singapore.
  • July 15th: Match v Crystal Palace in Singapore National Stadium.
  • July 21st: Match v RB Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany.
  • July 27th: Match v RB Salzburg in Salzburg, Austria.
  • July 30th: Community Shield v Man City at King Power Stadium, Leicester.
  • July 31st: Match v Strasbourg at Anfield.
  • August 6th: First match of Premier League season.


  • May 28th: Final fixture of Premier League season v Southampton.
  • July 8th: Pre-season testing at AXA Training Centre.
  • July 11th: Internationals return to club.
  • July 17th: Start of training camp in Donaueschingen, Germany.
  • July 19th: Match v Karlsruher SC to open new 34,000-seater Wildparkstadion in Germany.
  • July 30th: Match v Leicester City at Singapore National Stadium.
  • August 2nd: Match v Bayern Munich at Singapore National Stadium.
  • August 12th: Start of Premier League season.

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