Liverpool handed a major Merseyside derby boost and all because of a former Everton manager

Liverpool midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesLiverpool midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Liverpool midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty Images | Getty Images
Liverpool’s first game after the international break is against Everton at Anfield.

Ryan Gravenberch might take the additional time off to become an explorer of his new surroundings. The Liverpool midfielder may well become a tourist in the city he now calls home. An amble around the Albert Doc followed by a browse of the Beatles Museum and then a coffee hidden away in Exchange Flags; Gravenberch won’t be short of options if that’s how he chooses to occupy himself during the international break.

A month ago, after completing a switch to Anfield from Bayern Munich on summer transfer deadline day, Gravenberch felt it was prudent to pull out of Netherlands under-21s duty. He believed the hiatus of the season was the perfect period to adapt to his new surroundings and, what people seem to forget when it comes to footballers, use the sort out his life off the field. Moving some 900 miles from Munich to Merseyside is scarcely just hopping on a private jet, wheeling a suitcase off and starting your next chapter. Finding a place to live and organising items such as furniture to be shipped over are on the to-do list.

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Ronald Koeman couldn’t see it that way, though. The Netherlands boss took aim at Gravenberch’s decision - and bygones have not been bygones. For the current international break, the 21-year-old has been snubbed of a call-up for his country. Even despite injuries biting at both senior and age-group level, Gravenberch has remained surplus to requirements.

“We do have a certain opinion about cancelling the Dutch Juniors,” said Koeman, speaking at a press conference on Monday. “He hasn’t played much yet. I still think he’s a great talent and I hope he will play a lot at Liverpool and continue his development. Then he will certainly be a player for the Dutch team.”

Yet in truth, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool will secretly be pleased. The Netherlands’ loss is very much the Reds’ gain. Gravenberch has made a bright start on Merseyside, scoring one goal and recording two assists in seven appearances. His performance after coming on as a half-time substitute in the 2-2 draw against Brighton last Sunday was high octane and he somehow didn’t give the Reds a two-goal cushion when he turned Dominik Szboszlai’s cross onto the bar.

Following the international break, Liverpool return to action when they welcome Everton to Anfield on Saturday 21 October. And Gravenberch being omitted by ex-Toffees boss Koeman has undoubtedly given the Reds a boost for the Merseyside derby.

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Liverpool will already be without Curtis Jones, who must serve the second of a three-match suspension. Harvey Elliott replaced Jones against Brighton, although struggled throughout the opening 45 minutes and was withdrawn for Gravenberch at the break.

Meanwhile, Wataru Endo continues to acclimatise to Klopp’s instructions, with the summer signing from Stuttgart unused against Brighton. The 30-year-old may also feature in two games for Japan during the international break - which both take place 6,500 miles away in the Far East, who are nine hours ahead.

And there will be some uncertainty surrounding whether Alexis Mac Allister can start. Argentina play Peru at 3am BST on Wednesday 18 October. That gives the midfielder little time to return with the Everton clash kicking off at 12.30 BST.

Mac Allister was in the exact same scenario last month. Liverpool travelled to Wolves for the lunchtime kick-off and Mac Allister was handed a start, despite Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez being named on the bench after returning from their South American excursions.

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Mac Allister’s performance panned out how plenty might have predicted after flying back halfway around the world - jaded, lethargic and error-laden. Klopp admitted the 24-year-old was even relieved when withdrawn at half-time.

With Thiago Alcantara still battling back from a hip injury that’s sidelined him since April, coupled with Stefan Bajcetic’s recent calf setback, Szoboszlai appears to be Liverpool’s only out-and-out starter against Everton - and that’s bearing in mind he doesn’t sustain a fitness issue while away with Hungary. But with some respite and more time to become accustomed to Klopp’s instructions, Gravenberch’s chances of featuring from the outset when Sean Dyche’s side make the short trip across Stanley Park have been augmented.

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