August is still a week away and Roy Hodgson has yet to oversee his first competitive game at Anfield but, already, Liverpool's new manager is talking darkly of burnout and "unbelievably difficult" challenges ahead.
The first arrives on Thursday in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, at the home of FK Rabotnicki in the first leg of a Europa League qualifier.
"These will be two unbelievably difficult games for us at this stage of the season," says Hodgson, whose sports science and medical staff have urged him not to risk playing a host of established names including Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher, Dirk Kuyt and Glen Johnson. All are still recovering from their World Cup adventures (or misadventures) and the fear is that utilizing them now would prompt mid-season burnout.
"It's a lose, lose," says Hodgson, acutely conscious of boardroom pressure to chase silverware. "It will be very difficult without our top players but the sports scientists say if we use them now we'll lose them further down the line."
The teamsheet on Thursday should certainly make interesting reading. And particularly after a very young, highly inexperienced Liverpool lost 1-0 at Kaiserslautern in a friendly only notable for the fact that it was Milan Jovanovic's debut, Hodgson sending the Serbia winger, signed from Standard Liège, on for the second half.
If Thursday will be a big night for Alberto Aquilani – Hodgson has made it clear he expects Rafael Benítez's £17m buy from Roma last summer finally to display his hitherto hidden talents in Skopje – it also represents arguably Rabotnicki's biggest game since September 2007 when they faced Bolton Wanderers in the Uefa Cup. Significantly, playing Sammy Lee's then side earned a club sometimes dubbed "The Romantics" as much money as they usually expect to accrue in an entire year.
Small wonder a Rabotnicki website yesterday proclaimed: "Liverpool will come to Macedonia – one of the world's biggest clubs will play Rabotnicki in a qualifying Europa League tie. And, no, it's not a joke, nor a dream."
Hodgson trusts his arrival at Skopje "Alexander the Great" Airport will not herald a nightmare. If Liverpool must be mindful of Filip Petkovski, Rabotnicki's highly promising 20-year-old striker, at least an ongoing refurbishment of the Philip II Arena – commonly known as the Gradski Stadium – dictates they are unlikely to suffer the same deprivations faced by Bolton.
Three years ago Nicolas Anelka and company raised eyebrows by declining to use the away dressing-room facilities following a 1-1 draw – they scraped a 1-0 win at the Reebok – instead detouring to a nearby hotel before racing to the airport and their return flight to Manchester.
Yet even if the showers are not quite up to Premier League standard, Hodgson will have little compunction about reminding his players that, right now, Liverpool are in no position to be precious.