Pre-season always seems to bring around newly-found optimism and cause to look forward to the campaign that lies ahead.

For Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp, there will be expectation rather than hope for the new season following a year without any major trophies.

Granted, the Reds did remarkably well to finish third in the Premier League after the lengthy injury list that they had to endure for the majority of the campaign.

Now that term is over and done with, attention is firmly on the 2021/22 season and what can be won 12 months from now.

Players are returning from injury; Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are the obvious three that get mentioned, but there are some that will be looking to prove a point this time round.

Midfield is the area of the pitch that is getting scrutinised the most this summer, mainly due to the departure of Gini Wijnaldum.

A replacement in the transfer market is yet to be found, so the players that are there will be hoping to put their hand up and take on the responsibility.

One of those is bound to be Naby Keita, whose time at Anfield has been rather underwhelming after the hype surrounding his signature.

A great deal of that is certainly not his fault. Injuries have played a significant part in the 26-year-old not featuring in a Liverpool shirt as often as everyone would have liked.

Since arriving from RB Leipzig in 2018, Keita has been ruled out for 54 league matches due to various injuries. Last season was his worst in that regard, with 23 games missed.

If ever there was a time for Keita to show why Liverpool paid Leipzig around £52m to sign him, it’s now.

There has never been a greater need for a midfielder to stand up and be counted. Wijnaldum has left, yes, but there are other reasons why it’s Keita’s time to step up.

And he could have an even more extensive chance to prove himself.

Jordan Henderson has yet to return to pre-season training, while Fabinho has only just reunited with the squad.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been used in the No.9 role during the pre-season tour of Austria, while Thiago Alcantara is yet to feature since linking up with his team mates.

As Klopp is yet to dip into the transfer market for a new midfielder, the players that are already at his disposal will have to make sure they are ready to go when called upon.

It’s not just Keita that all the pressure will be on, of course, but given this will be his fourth season in a Reds shirt it’s not unreasonable to expect more from him.

In fairness, a lot of this will come down to his fitness. If Keita can avoid picking up injuries that keep him sidelined throughout the season, he could be a valuable asset to Klopp and his staff.

We have already seen in Austria that Keita's best asset is winning the ball back through counter pressing, then setting up chances for the forwards. The problem is we haven't seen enough of that when it matters most.

Will it be enough to convince Klopp that he doesn’t need a new midfielder? That remains to be seen.

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