Neil Critchley and his Merry Band of Yutes managed to secure a place in the fifth round of the FA cup for Liverpool in front of a packed house at Anfield. The victors were rewarded with a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea the week of March 2. The match will be sandwiched between a trip to Watford on February 29 and a match at Fortress Anfield against Bournemouth on March 7. What remains to be seen, however, is what kind of squad will be sent to face Chelsea.
To this point, Jurgen Klopp has played decidedly young squads in both domestic cup competitions, though not always by choice. Klopp was forced to play a U-23 side in the Carabou Cup against Aston Villa when the FA refused to move the fixture while the senior squad was set to play in the FIFA Club World Cup the next day. While there was a minor outcry from Cup traditionalists in that case, there was an absolute fervor when Jurgen decided to honor the break that was promised to his first team players for the FA Cup fourth round replay against Shrewsbury Town.
Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is an entirely different proposition than a second leg against Shrewsbury Town, however. It is unlikely that Klopp would throw out a mixture of youth and reserve players against what would likely be a first team squad from Chelsea. Neil Critchley, who led the U-23 squad against Shrewsbury Town, thinks it will be a strong side from Liverpool.
“It’s a first-team game and Chelsea away is a really difficult tie, but a great tie to look forward to,” said the interim manager.
“That was sort of the message to some of the boys tonight – if we do win tonight then maybe one or two of you, maybe more, might get an opportunity to go and get another fantastic experience. They want as many of those experiences as they can and if they get that chance at Chelsea away they’ll be fully deserving of it.”
Fully deserving, indeed. Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, and several other of the young Reds will hopefully be involved in some capacity after repeated strong performances in the cup competitions.