Liverpool have the opportunity to secure their progression to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group E winners with victory over Serie A opponents Napoli on Wednesday night at Anfield.
The European champions will be desperate to get their European status confirmed before the final group match in Salzburg in December. Should the Reds prevail against Carlo Ancelotti’s side, it could present vital minutes for Jurgen Klopp’s youngsters.
Currently eight points clear at the Premier League summit whilst retaining the rights as undisputed kings of Europe, it’s fair to say opportunities for academy players to make the jump to the first team has never been more limited.
However, with fixtures thick and fast in the league throughout December alongside a FIFA Club World Cup campaign it means Liverpool’s array of young talent will be expected to step up and there could be places on offer in Europe.
Another Anfield win against Napoli on Wednesday will mean Liverpool could go into the final group game with their last-16 progression secured before matchweek six for the first time since 2008.
Despite recent back-to-back Champions League finals, on both campaigns, Klopp’s side have had to go into their final group match needing a victory to progress hampering first-team opportunities for less established players.
The club’s youngsters have done their part to provide themselves with a quarter-final clash against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup due to Liverpool’s joint commitments in the Club World Cup. It’s now up to the first team to get the job done to ensure Klopp can rotate in Austria to provide his senior players with as much necessary rest as possible.
This could hand European debuts to the likes of Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Ki-Jana Hoever. Having already played 22 matches in all competitions this season and the possibility of a further nine matches ahead during December, Liverpool cannot afford to make life difficult for themselves.
With their opponents playing catch-up in the league, securing their European status early could allow the Reds to further distance themselves from the rest of the pack. They need to avoid adding distractions to their pursuit of Premier League glory and the chance of wrapping up proceedings in Group E on Wednesday couldn’t be any more important.