Ahead of the start of the brand new NextGen Series tournament this week, Director of Football Damien Comolli explains to Liverpoolfc.tv why he can't wait to see the Reds taking part in it.
Liverpool will compete in the inaugural U19 Champions League-style competition along with some of Europe's other elite clubs - and Rodolfo Borrell's side kick-off against Sporting Lisbon at Anfield on Wednesday night.
Molde and Wolfsburg are also in our group, and the Reds will play all three teams home and away, with the top two sides progressing into the knockout stages.
Here, Comolli tells .tv why he believes the tournament will provide the club's youngsters with an ideal opportunity to gain big-game experience and therefore play a huge role in aiding their development.
Damien, the NextGen Series is set to start this week. How important is this competition to Liverpool's youngsters?
We think it's very important. I think we were the first club to sign up because we think it is important for the development of players. It's important for them to face a different type of football, to play in big stadiums and to take the players out of their comfort zone of always facing the same teams and type of football. I think it will stretch everybody - the players and coaching staff - and it will be good from a fitness point of view as well, so we are really looking forward to it.
This is certainly a new way for young players to gain experience...
It is. I think the main thing is that we know we can compete with the best in England because we've got a top academy, but now let's see how we compete with the best on the continent. We've got to look at it humbly and think, 'we do produce players, we do well in England, but how will we do when we play against a top academy like Sporting Lisbon?'
How important is this competition to Liverpool Football Club as a whole?
It is very important. As far as I'm concerned, it's a competition that European football was lacking. It is almost a dream come true for every director of football and academy director. I've been hearing about this project for the last 15 years and a lot of people have been trying to set it up. Finally we now have it. When I joined the club last November, Frank McParland was already holding talks with the organisers and when he told me about it, I said straight away, 'We've got to get in it' because it is very important for Liverpool and it is going to become an important competition in Europe.
Some of Europe's biggest clubs are involved along with ourselves. It's going to be an exciting tournament...
It's going to be very exciting and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the players cope with different styles of football. We've got Sporting on Wednesday and then Molde next, so that's two different types of football. We know Sporting always produce great players - Ronaldo and Nani to name just two - so it is going to be an interesting test, as it will be to see how we react going to Norway in different circumstances. Then we have Wolfsburg, who are very different to the other two teams. From a tactical point of view, it will give a lot to our players who will be facing different issues, different types of players - tricky, strong, quick players - as well as direct play, more elaborate play and a passing type of game. I think if I was a player at their age, I would be very, very excited about facing this challenge.
As you say, it's Sporting up first - what sort of game are you expecting?
I expect a game with a battle for possession. Traditionally, they like to keep possession, and so do we - Rodolfo, Pep and Marshy have developed this (in our players). We like to have possession and always have the ball, so it is going to be a very technical game. We will probably play with a high-tempo, whereas Sporting will try to slow us down a little bit, but it's going to be an interesting opposition of style. Anfield is obviously a big pitch and players could be intimidated by playing there, so it will also be interesting to see how they react.
Finally, this tournament presents a real opportunity for fans to see the stars of tomorrow, doesn't it?
I don't like to say 'the stars of tomorrow' because they're kids. But at the back end of last season, we were playing U18 games at the Academy and there were a lot of people there watching our team play because it was an exciting team with exciting players. Hopefully the fans will see that again. At the moment they are just youth players and young kids, not stars yet, but it's definitely a good way to see how well our academy is doing and to the potential we have in terms of players.