Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has insisted that the “best team” will face Southampton in Wednesday’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg at St Mary’s.
The German coach faced criticism from some quarters for naming the youngest ever side in the club’s history against Plymouth Argyle in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday.
The average age of the lineup was 21 years and 296 days, and the inexperience showed as the Reds were held to a goalless draw at Anfield, meaning that they will need to replay the match at Home Park at a later stage.
The Merseyside outfit dominated the game, having 77% possession and producing 28 shots compared to Plymouth’s four, but only four of Liverpool’s attempts were on target.
The importance of the FA Cup is called into question at times when top-level clubs play youngsters, but Klopp has stood by his selection.
Ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final first leg, the former Borussia Dortmund boss has suggested that more first-team stars will return to the lineup in a bid to earn a strong advantage heading into the showdown at Anfield.
During his pre-match press conference, Klopp told reporters:
“Wednesday will see the best team we can line up. If you ask for a rating in England the League Cup is third but while you are still in it it is the most important cup.
“If you win and it is wonderful with the youngest lineup ever. After the game it is the easiest job for you to ask ‘Why did you make all these changes?’.
“The question I asked this morning in the dressing room was ‘Could we have done better? 100% yes with this lineup. I don’t expect perfection but I have high expectations because I see them every day in training and I was convinced we could play really well.”
It will be interesting to see which starting XI Klopp goes for as he will almost certainly have Sunday’s Premier League clash against arch rivals Manchester United in the back of his mind.