Klopp hopes reserves can avoid FA Cup slip-up
Jurgen Klopp cited fixture congestion as the chief reason for fielding an almost unrecognizable Liverpool line-up in the third round of the FA Cup at Exeter last season.
A year on, the 49-year-old German is following the same path against League Two (fourth tier) opposition from the south-west of England once more, this time in the form of Plymouth.
Klopp has to factor in the effects of the demanding Christmas schedule, which forced his side to play two matches in less than 48 hours last weekend, beating Manchester City 1-0 on the Saturday before conceding two penalties in a 2-2 draw at Sunderland.
He also has to consider the fact Liverpool play the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at Southampton on Wednesday, meaning rotation to keep players fresh is inevitable.
Klopp has indicated Loris Karius, dropped midway through last month after mistakes brought heavy criticism, will return in goal, in order to give Simon Mignolet a breather.
“There is a big chance Loris will play,” said Klopp. “He has been training outstandingly well which is good to see.
“It’s difficult to speak about these things in public because it becomes a story but we cannot ignore the pressure you make.
“That’s how it is, we have to cope with it, deal with it.
“That is why you see I made the change and I am sure Loris will benefit from this step back, or step aside.
“Simon has done a really, really outstanding job for us since he’s been playing again and forced Loris to train at the highest level because we have two really good goalkeepers. It was good for him.”
‘No one will be daunted’
Klopp will also rest a number of key first-team players who picked up relatively minor injuries during or before the holiday period, including James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Joel Matip and Daniel Sturridge.
It means there will be opportunities for players who have largely been on the fringes, such as midfielder Kevin Stewart, and for young players seeking to gain match experience, such as defender Trent Alexander-Arnold.
At least, unlike a year ago, Liverpool start their FA Cup third-round tie with home advantage.
That ought to give Klopp a chance of avoiding the scares of last season, when his team of fringe players and youth products had to come back from behind twice to draw 2-2 at Exeter before winning the replay.
Plymouth, FA Cup semi-finalists in 1984 and quarter-finalists as recently as 2007, are second in League Two, having responded well to the disappointment of losing to AFC Wimbledon in last season’s promotion play-off final.
Manager Derek Adams has reshaped his squad considerably since last season’s promotion failure, signing 14 players on a permanent basis during the summer and two more since the January transfer window opened.
Perhaps the most intriguing of all the arrivals are former Cameroon Under-20 international defender Yann Songo’o, who has played club football in Spain and the United States, and striker David Goodwillie, who has rather lost his way since winning three caps for Scotland between 2010 and 2011.
“I’m sure no-one will be daunted by it and we’re going up there to enjoy it,” said Plymouth midfielder David Fox.
“There’s no pressure on us at the end of the day.
“We’ve got a huge following going, backing us and we’re going to really enjoy it.”