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Liverpool striker could be handed new opportunity as absentee list grows

 

Layton Stewart is making up for lost time with Liverpool and could get another chance in EFL Trophy this evening.

 

Layton Stewart is making up for lost time. Having missed more than a year of his development at Liverpool through injury, the 20-year-old is enjoying his return to action this season.

 

Stewart continued his impressive form by notching the only goal for the under-21s at the weekend as they extended their unbeaten Premier League 2 run to five games with a 1-0 triumph at Leicester City.

 

“It was a really good goal actually,” says U21s boss Barry Lewtas. “Played forward, he ran in behind and took it really well on his left side. He deserved that as well, he’s in good form at the moment.”

 

Stewart had not long adjusted to the higher age group when, in March last year, he suffered an ACL injury that kept him out for 13 months before returning towards the end of last season, coincidentally scoring in another win at Leicester.

 

This term, the forward blotted his copybook slightly when sent off moments after a dramatic late equaliser at Brighton and Hove Albion for a second bookable offence. But it was his goal in a starting role in Liverpool’s 2-1 reverse in their EFL Trophy group opener at Salford City three weeks ago that was perhaps the ultimate evidence of a player determined to prove he can progress.

 

A lengthy list of absentees means Stewart is almost certain to be given another opportunity when Lewtas’ side play their second group game at League Two side Rochdale tonight (kick-off 7pm).

 

Striker Oakley Cannonier and defenders Isaac Mabaya, Lee Jonas and Luke Chambers have all been called up for England U19s this week, while midfielder Bobby Clark and forward Ranel Young are in the England U18 set-up and goalkeeper Harvey Davies is with the U20s.

 

Ben Doak, the winger who has impressed in the UEFA Youth League and the U18s, is in the Scotland U21 squad while midfielder Frauendorf is with the Germany U19s. Centre-back Jarell Quansah has been missing for the last week through injury.

The regular arranging of EFL Trophy games in the international break has long robbed Liverpool of key players since they entered the competition three years ago and has contributed to them losing all bar one of their 10 matches, the exception being a 1-1 draw at Fleetwood Town in 2019, although they were beaten in the subsequent penalty shoot-out to miss out on a bonus point.

 

However, as with the Salford game, next month’s final group game at Accrington Stanley is not during an international period, giving Liverpool a greater chance of progressing to the knockout stage for the first time.

 

Nevertheless, there could still be a reasonably strong Liverpool side at the Crown Oil Arena with Stefan Bajcetic, Jake Cain, Harvey Blair, Dom Corness, Luca Stephenson and summer signing Oludare Olufunwa all free of international commitments.

 

Fabio Carvalho, who featured for the U21s on Saturday, is eligible to feature and, with two over-21 players allowed, there is scope for Nat Phillips and loan signing Arthur Melo – who both also started against the Foxes – to play. Jay Spearing, the 33-year-old who moved back to Liverpool in the summer as an U18 coach, is another possibility as a registered overage player with the U21s.

 

“In the past we have tended to scrape together a few subs and that’s not me being disrespectful to the lads,” says Lewtas, whose side lost 4-0 at Rochdale in the competition last season. “You are eligible to have seven players on the bench and last season in this competition we only had two or three.

 

“There have been times in the previous games in the competition where we have just come a little unstuck positionally as well, in terms of the changes we had to make. The competition does throw up a different kind of challenge but we have prepared the boys for it the best we can.”

 

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