Neil Humphreys: Juergen Klopp needs to go shopping
European champions Liverpool look weak and weary, just a month before start of new season
Liverpool are a five-a-side team away from where they need to be in a month.
Imagine Alisson in goal, an attacking trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah with Xherdan Shaqiri floating just behind.
Juergen Klopp can't, not for the foreseeable future.
All five are not with the rest of the squad for pre-season training. All five should give the German pause for thought.
With about a month to go before the new season kicks off on Aug 10, he's four superstars and a mercurial maverick short of a flying start to the campaign.
Title dreams are usually made of sterner stuff.
Klopp exudes self-confidence like Tony Stark in a tin can, but he can't assemble those who seek to avenge Manchester City's one-point triumph.
While he continues to emphasise his good fortune for having such a talented squad, he can't draw attention away from the threadbare nature of that squad.
Firmino and Alisson were last seen partying at the Copa America, following Brazil's tournament success. They are a three-week vacation away from returning to full training in Liverpool.
Mane's Senegal faced Benin in the African Nations Cup quarter-finals this morning (Singapore time). Like the Brazilian duo, he isn't expected to feature in Liverpool's pre-season American tour.
After Egypt crashed out, Salah might put in a brief appearance, presumably to appease American sponsors, but a pre-season cameo isn't coming anytime soon.
And on Tuesday, Klopp confirmed that Shaqiri's calf tear, picked up during last month's Nations League Finals, hasn't healed. Liverpool's medical team haven't offered a recovery date.
The Swiss midfielder was hardly omnipresent in Liverpool's late charge for English Premier League and Champions League honours, but he offers handy cover for Salah, Mane, and even Firmino, in a rotated attack.
All three are out, along with Shaqiri, which raises a slight concern for a club who were optimistic enough to release Daniel Sturridge and sign no one beyond teenage defender Sepp van den Berg.
Liverpool have sold or released five squad members and lost four attackers to either injury or post-tournament fatigue.
In the giddy euphoria of Champions League success, Klopp offered variations on not fixing what isn't broken.
The Reds aren't broken, obviously. But they are fragile and will remain vulnerable until late August at the earliest.
BENIGN AUGUST FIXTURES
Apart from Arsenal's trip to Anfield and the Uefa Super Cup clash with Chelsea, the Reds' fixtures are relatively benign next month.
But they recorded the third-highest points tally in history - 97 - and still finished second.
The tortoise and the hare analogy no longer applies. It's Manchester City's Roadrunner and the rest. A slow start and the EPL title race will be essentially over before it's begun.
Klopp has beamed with characteristic positivity, focusing on his teenagers and glossing over the fact that only 16 players kicked off pre-season training.
He is insisting that the kids are all right.
Rhian Brewster won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, collecting the Golden Boot along the way. After wrapping the striker in bubble wrap for two years, Klopp seems ready to unleash the 19-year-old's raw power and speed.
The Reds consider Brewster to be the long-term successor to Sturridge, which is quite a leap of faith. Brewster hasn't made a single senior appearance yet.
At Manchester City, Phil Foden is a month younger than Brewster, but made 13 EPL appearances last season and qualified for an EPL winners' medal.
Unless the Reds take a sudden plunge into the transfer market, they'll be pinning their temporary hopes on the untested.
At least their forgotten man returns to the fore.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has recovered from cruciate ligament surgery and effectively becomes a new signing, and a most welcome one.
Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner offered tireless industry, but the defining difference between Liverpool and City was the sort of inventive wing play that defines Oxlade-Chamberlain's game.
But a rusty winger can't compensate for a missing trio up front, much less the Reds' standout goalkeeper (Alisson was the literal difference between Champions League success and failure in the last two seasons).
Philippe Coutinho has been mentioned, but a romantic return seems to be the work of speculative journalists rather than Barcelona board members, who need the Brazilian as a makeweight in a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for Neymar.
Klopp's confidence remains unshakeable, but he must be wondering if he can close the gap on a stronger City when four of his attackers will have a compromised pre-season preparation.
While his stars enjoy their vacations, he might consider doing what most wealthy folks do on their holidays.