London, United Kingdom | AFP | Jurgen Klopp insists he respects the FA Cup but that won’t stop Liverpool’s manager prioritising his fatigued players’ health in Sunday’s FA Cup derby clash against Everton.
Naby Keita became the latest addition to Liverpool’s growing injury list when he pick up a groin problem before the runaway leaders’ 2-0 win over Sheffield United in the Premier League on Thursday.
With defenders Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne, midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri, Fabinho and forward Rhian Brewster all out, Klopp finds himself down to just 12 fit senior outfield players, plus new signing Takumi Minamino and a number of youth team members.
A third round Merseyside derby at Anfield would traditionally see seven-time FA Cup winners Liverpool field a full-strength team.
But regardless of the FA Cup’s place in Liverpool’s storied history, Klopp, who has yet to win the competition, hinted he would be forced to rest several stars after a frantic festive period that included six games in 16 days.
“We respect them and we respect the competition, respect what the people want us to achieve – that’s a very important part of it – but I cannot do things because of the name of the opponent,” Klopp told reporters on Friday.
“People have told me already a couple of times I wouldn’t respect the cup competitions but that is not true.
“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.”
– Everton opportunity? –
Liverpool beat Everton 5-2 in the league at Anfield a month ago but that was the final game of Marco Silva’s reign.
Klopp expects a much sterner test this time, especially as new Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti is the only boss to beat Liverpool this season while the Italian was in charge of Napoli.
“I heard a little bit of what Carlo said this morning and they are obviously on fire and we have to make sure we are ready for that,” Klopp said.
“We need the crowd because that’s the only advantage we have: it is just two teams who play each other, two teams from the same city.”
Everton, who suffered their first defeat under Ancelotti at the hands of Manchester City on Wednesday, have not beaten Liverpool at Anfield since 1999.
Ancelotti, an FA Cup winner with Chelsea in 2010, on Friday urged his players to seize a “fantastic opportunity” in the tie.
“It is a fantastic challenge but also a fantastic opportunity,” Ancelotti said.
“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.”
Ancelotti guided Napoli to a 2-0 Champions League victory over Liverpool in September and took a point from a 1-1 draw at Anfield in November before he was sacked.
Asked the secret to beating Klopp, the 60-year-old offered a shrug and a smile. “Score more goals,” he said.