With only half a game under his belt following more than a year spent on the sidelines, a start for Jon Flanagan in the League Cup against Stoke tonight seemed as though it might be too big an ask. With Nathaniel Clyne out injured, though, it is believed that the 23-year-old fullback is set for his first start since 2014.
According to the Liverpool Echo, despite doubts yesterday as to whether Flanagan was ready for a start, it is now all but certain he will be given one as Clyne has been unable to prove his fitness over the past 24 hours and Klopp has decided it’s best to go with the more experienced Flanagan than a youngster like Conor Randall.
"We all love Flanno, but he’s had a long time out to play 90 minutes or more," was Klopp’s take on the matter when asked about Flanagan’s chances of starting at his pre-match press conference on Monday. "Maybe it’s not the best thing. We would maybe try it if he is ready, but of course it would be better if Clyne would get fit."
Other options on the table would have been to play one of left back Alberto Moreno or Brad Smith on right of the defence, or to move a midfielder like Emre Can there. Under Brendan Rodgers, that’s almost certain to have been the preferred option. Klopp, though, has so far shown an aversion to playing players out of position.
That means that Flanagan will be called on, at least to start the evening. It would be a surprise, though, for him to go more than an hour, and Klopp will have a plan—whether it’s Randall, Moreno, Smith, or Can—should Flanagan struggle with the pace of the game in what will mark his first action against a Premier League side.
Flanagan impressed in his appearance against Exeter, but Stoke’s attack of Xherdan Shaqiri, Bojan Krkic, and Marko Arnautovic pose a very different sort of threat than that of a plucky League Two side like Exeter.