With Liverpool confirming U23 boss Neil Critchley will manage a side of youth and reserve players for Liverpool’s League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa while Jürgen Klopp, Pep Lijnders, and the senior players head to Qatar, Villa instantly became favourites.
Even if the Birmingham club take the chance to rest and rotate a few players, expectations will be for them to send out a strong squad with the promise of a place in the semi-finals. They do, however, acknowledge the difficult position the Reds have been put in.
“Liverpool find themselves in the Club Would Cup because of the phenomenal achievement of winning the Champions League,” Villa CEO Christian Purslow said following Liverpool’s announcement that they would be sending Critchley and the U23s to Villa Park.
“That’s not their fault, it’s a remarkable achievement and every other club in England would love to be in that position. We have a tremendous issue with fixture crowding in European football and particularly in English football. We fully respect what they’re doing.”
Given the position Liverpool have been put in, there can be no reasonable talk of them not taking the competition seriously—it’s simply that the Club World Cup, on account of how they qualified for it, is more important. And that left them with no good choices.
The end result is Liverpool will take the League Cup as seriously as they can. But as seriously as they can makes them, despite their name and league position, the game’s plucky underdogs in a way typically reserved for lower league sides in these competitions.
“We have no illusions,” Purslow added. “They’re going to send some extremely hungry young footballers, with low expectations, hoping to cause a shock at Villa Park. We’ll be ready for that.”