With club football being put on pause for six weeks as FIFA sends the game’s best to Qatar to sportswash that country’s oil and human rights-tarnished image in an unprecedented winter World Cup after the hosts reneged on promises they would be able to hold the tournament in the summer, those clubs face a need to keep sharp during the break.
For Liverpool, it will mean a training camp in Dubai two weeks before the season resumes in December, with the Reds heading to the neighbouring petrostate along with AC Milan and Olympique Lyonnais to practice and play a friendly tournament for the benefit of those players who aren’t set to represent their countries in Qatar over the next month-and-a-half.
“The last years have been incredibly hard for our boys,” Lijnders noted. “The levels they reached, game in and game out, every three days, it made us successful. With long spells of high performance, players can become mentally tired. A lot of people mistake physical tiredness for being mentally tired, but we all know that the mind and the body are one.
“So, yes, it gives us a chance to give the boys few weeks without needing to prepare for a game, to not hear our voices shouting at them that they have to give more. Hopefully it will take them out of their high-performance routines and gives the mind a nice break. We will report in Dubai with a fresh and hungry mind to prepare the second half of the season.”
The hope, then, will that be the break can be a kind of reset for the players—especially those not at the World Cup—after a difficult start to the 2022-23 season for Liverpool, with a group that came within two games of a historic quadruple looking tired and perhaps a little bit jaded and currently sat sixth, a full 15-points back of current league leaders Arsenal.
“It’s about togetherness, off-the-pitch professionalism, creation of team spirit, real time to train,” Lijnders added of the club’s goals for Dubai. “Real time for dedicated and specific team training. It’s time to create a base for the second half of the season to recover our pride. Sometimes you need to lose something to realise what it took to have it.”