Friday 13 December 2019

Jurgen Klopp ready to gamble by playing the Liverpool kids in FA Cup tie with Exeter City

Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, is expected to name an almost unrecognisable line-up for his side's FA Cup third-round tie with Exeter City on Friday night
Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, is expected to name an almost unrecognisable line-up for his side's FA Cup third-round tie with Exeter City on Friday night

Chris Bascombe

Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, admitted he must risk a shock elimination from the FA Cup due to the club’s injury crisis as he dismissed any suggestion he was disrespecting the competition.

Klopp will select an inexperienced side in the third-round tie at Exeter on Friday night, well aware of the consequences should Liverpool lose to the League Two side.

Philippe Coutinho is out for a month with a hamstring injury, and with Dejan Lovren joining KoloToure, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho on the sidelines Klopp has no fit centre-halves, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho on the sidelines, Klopp has no fit centre-halves. José Enrique, an isolated figure at the club for months, is set for his first game of the season at centre-back.

Asked what side he would select, Klopp said: “Very young. None of the players who played the last five or six games in a row will play at Exeter. That is not possible. Then we can try and make a team. It is not easy, but we will try and find one.

“The team that plays will want to win 100 per cent, but it is true that it won’t be a team that has played together often. Our squad is big with all the young players and we have to use this quality now.”

Klopp could foresee the criticism if a weakened team succumb to lower-league rivals, but said he must think longer-term, especially with games against Arsenal and Manchester United on the horizon.

“We respect the FA Cup,” said Klopp. “That is one reason for the team we will play. If someone is not interested in my situation, how can I be interested in their opinion? We have the situation that we have. We cannot play with Phil Coutinho – he cannot play for 3½ weeks.

“There is only one team in the Premier League who has the same schedule of fixtures that we have and that is Tottenham, but they were out of the Capital One Cup.

“If we had not played on Tuesday, then Phil and Dejan are still in the race and we have something like a normal situation. Phil had a problem with a ­hamstring a few weeks ago. Jordon Ibe was ill. Christian Benteke had a problem with his Achilles. If we could have changed players more often, then no one would have had this intensity, but you cannot have 40 or 50 players.”

Should Enrique feature, it would complete an astounding return to favour after he was told last ­summer he would not play for the club again. The change of manager offered the chance for a fresh start, but he has been injured since Klopp took over. He started playing again recently for Liverpool’s Under-21 side.

“He played earlier this week as a full-back for 90 minutes,” said Klopp. “But we don’t have too many centre-backs, so it is an idea. We could need his experience.”

More likely starters are the likes of Connor Randall, Brad Smith, João Teixeira and Cameron Brannagan, who have all experienced Capital One Cup or Europa League football this season.

What could Liverpool's starting XI look like?


Liverpool's youngsters

Connor Randall

Age: 20

Liverpool appearances: 2

Made his Liverpool debut this season. An Academy graduate from Liverpool who is likely to play at right back on Friday evening.


Brad Smith

Age: 21

Liverpool appearances: 4

Aussie left back/left winger Smith seemed to be heading out of Anfield due to a contract impasse last summer. Instead, he signed a new deal when Klopp arrived.


Cameron Brannagan

Age: 19

Liverpool appearances: 3

Another Academy recruit, although he was born in Manchester. Midfielder Brannagan made his senior debut in this season’s Capital One Cup.


Ryan Kent

Age: 19

Liverpool appearances: 0

Kent was on loan at Coventry City when the SOS was delivered by Klopp. There are high hopes for the winger whose Championship experience will be needed on Friday night.


Joao Teixeira

Age: 22

Liverpool appearances: 2

A Portuguese playmaker who played a small part in the title bid two years ago before mysteriously being overlooked. Spent last year on loan at Brighton.


Sheyi Ojo

Age: 18

Liverpool appearances: 0

A signing from MK Dons five years ago, Ojo was on loan at Wolves for most of this season but fell out of favour prior to Klopp summoning back to Anfield.


Kevin Stewart

Age: 22

Liverpool appearances: 0

Followed Academy Director Alex Inglethorpe from Tottenham two years ago. The versatile midfielder recently ended loan spell at Swindon due to injury.


Conor Masterson

Age: 19

Liverpool appearances: 0

A Republic of Ireland youth international, centre-half Masterson joined Liverpool from Dublin-based Lucan United, making his U18 debut in 2014-14

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