Neil Critchley has hailed the influence of Matty Virtue after the Liverpool U23s' captain marked his return from injury with a superb goal.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who had been out since early November with an ankle problem, struck an equaliser from long range during Sunday's 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion.

Critchley's side are back in action on Thursday evening when they host Swansea City in the Premier League International Cup - a game you can watch live on LFCTV and LFCTV GO.

The young Reds - who lost to Villarreal and beat Hertha BSC in their first two group matches - must defeat Swansea to be in with a chance of finishing the pool stage as one of the two best runners-up who will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Read on for Critchley’s thoughts on Virtue's return, the Swansea test, turning draws into wins and more...

On Virtue's comeback...

We’ve missed Matty. He is a big influence on our team and he gets goals from midfield. His goal against West Brom was a bit fortuitous in terms of the goalkeeper made a mistake, but the way Matty took it was superb. It could easily have gone over the bar or gone wide so it was a really good finish. It was nice to see him back, he’s had a number of weeks out after getting injured against Leicester City at the start of November. He then had a bit of a setback with an illness over Christmas. We weren’t planning on playing him for as long as he did on Sunday but we had a couple of injuries in the first half where we were forced into making some changes. Matty played longer than we would have liked, but considering the length of time he has been out I thought his fitness and the way he played was really good and it was great to have him back.

Watch highlights of U23s 1-1 West Brom

On the exciting talent at his disposal…

We are very fortunate, we’ve got some very good players to work with. The quality of the training is extremely high, the technical level is outstanding at times. We have got good characters and a bit of a blend of some older, more experienced U23 players and some younger ones trying to prove themselves, so we’ve got a nice balance in the group. We understand everyone’s aspirations and ambitions may be slightly different but when they pull together and they play, they all play for the team, you get performances like we’ve had recently. I think they have been a real credit to themselves and the club in recent weeks.

Looking for that winning formula after four successive draws…

Last Sunday was our fourth 1-1 draw on the bounce which is very unusual. We have got to try and turn those draws into wins. We’ve looked a little bit more solid and hard to beat defensively but we’ve got to turn our domination into meaningful chances and meaningful possession, otherwise it counts for nothing. So we’ve got to do a little bit better in the final third.

On facing Swansea...

We played them just before Christmas and it was a really tight game. I thought Swansea played very well on the night and there wasn’t a lot in the game. Obviously we had a great chance to win it with the last kick of the game when we missed a penalty but it will be another tough game. We know we have to win this game to give ourselves any opportunity of progressing. If we do we have got an outside chance of getting out of the group so it’s a good test for the boys because the games are coming quite fast. We have to recover, prepare and it’s a good test for their mentality and all of the things we try to instil in them, in terms of good habits and elite preparation that will stand them in good stead for all of their career. That has been tested in the last few weeks that is for certain.

Video: The best of the PL International Cup win over Hertha

On a great response to the heavy loss to Villarreal with the win over Hertha…

That’s the reason why we enter this competition - to get the chance to play against different teams. The teams we play from Europe are different because they are what you call B teams so you play against older teams, men’s teams. Villarreal were really good and obviously gave us a tough examination. On the night we had a young team out but our response against Hertha was excellent. Those two games have been really good learning experiences for us. We will get a different examination against Swansea but we’d like to progress in this competition.

On a potential reunion with Swansea's Yan Dhanda…

It was great to see Yan when we played down there before Christmas and I managed to speak with him. He could be involved with Swansea and I hope he is because it will be nice to catch up with him - but hopefully he doesn’t score against us or play too well! Yan was a great boy to work with and hopefully he can get back into their first-team squad.

On the importance of his players being ready if the call to train at Melwood comes…

The situation with the first team at the moment is they’ve obviously got a couple of injuries themselves, and a suspension, and our boys have to be ready in case that opportunity comes along. We’ve had a lot of players training there recently but they also have to know that it’s not a given and they have to prove themselves and have to be good enough. But they know there is maybe an opportunity there. They have to be training and playing well here first before that opportunity arises.

Watch LFC U23s v Swansea live>>

Get the latest LFC news direct to your smart speaker
Never miss a beat Google Amazon
Liverpool U18s' Paul Glatzel

Paul Glatzel: It doesn't matter who scores, as long as we win