Jurgen Klopp will make big changes to his title-chasing side despite Liverpool facing Everton in the FA Cup third round, giving Carlo Ancelotti’s side a big chance to earn a rare Anfield victory today.
The Reds may have a 13-point lead at the Premier League summit but Klopp insists his choices are limited after suffering six first-team injuries ahead of the Merseyside derby.
Liverpool have already played in 32 games this season including journeys to Turkey and Qatar for the European Super Cup and Club World Cup respectively, and the majority of his first-choice starting XI has lined up for the majority of those.
And Klopp has insisted that he will pick his third round side accordingly and not let the fact it’s a Merseyside derby cloud his judgement – in a clear indication he’ll make big changes.
“People have told me already a couple of times I wouldn’t respect the cup competitions but that is not true,” said Klopp.
Jürgen Klopp’s pre-match press conference | Everton
“But my first job is to respect the players, my absolutely number one job. I see them every day, every second, I see them all the time and I have to make a decision is it allowed to bring them again or not?
“I am usually not emotional, I try to make decisions because of situations and not because of the opponent.”
Klopp made changes a month ago as Liverpool beat Everton 5-2 in the Premier League, but Marco Silva’s tired and downtrodden team look a million miles away from Ancelotti’s energetic Toffees of today.
Regardless, though, Klopp has limited options for making changes with six big injuries after Naby Keita pulled up in the warm-up for the Sheffield United game, and has been ruled out. New signing Takumi Minamino looks set to feature in a baptism of fire of a debut.
Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho are all trying to get back to fitness and all of them may well have played against Everton if fit – meaning Klopp will have to look to his young players for reinforcements.
Divock Origi and Adam Lallana seem certain to start as senior players, with Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Nathaniel Phillips all in contention after being on the bench in recent games against Wolves and Sheffield United.
The major decisions come up front and at centre half, with Klopp having to decide if Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will both have a rest, and if he wants to take both Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk out of the side as his first-choice partnership have little cover behind them.
The two grounds for Everton finally ending their Anfield misery come in the shape of Liverpool’s team selection and also the introduction of new manager Ancelotti. Having a coach of his stature already lifts the players and the club in general, but he also holds the key to success against Liverpool.
While Klopp’s Reds have proved almost unbeatable against everyone else, Ancelotti’s Napoli recorded two wins and a draw in four games against the European and world champions in the last two seasons – could he be Klopp’s Kryptonite?
“It is a fantastic challenge but also a fantastic opportunity,” said Ancelotti. “We are going to play against the best team in this moment, they are world champions so congratulations to them, but this is a fantastic challenge for us.
“Every derby is a special game. I know how different this game is. Of course Liverpool is the favourite, but in a derby you never know what is going on.
“The FA Cup here is completely different to other competitions, different to the Italian Cup for instance. The fact that it is the oldest competition gives it a really special atmosphere. There are a lot of surprises in this competition. It’s a really exciting moment, we have confidence to do our best.”
Liverpool and Everton have met in the FA Cup 24 times previously, making it the most played match in the history of the competition.
Everton have played five away matches against Liverpool in the FA Cup – four have been drawn and gone to replays, though the most recent match in January 2018 was won 2-1 by the Reds.
Liverpool striker Divock Origi has scored in all four of his home matches against Everton in all competitions, including a brace in their 5-2 Premier League win in December 2019.