Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has stated he will not allow the emotion of a Merseyside derby influence his team selection following a gruelling month that has included 10 matches in the space of 30 days.
The European champions are preparing to welcome Everton – who Klopp recently stated were ‘on fire’ – in the third round of the FA Cup at Anfield on Sunday.
Everton are yet to win at Liverpool’s home fortress since 1999 but the weekend’s clash represents the biggest opportunity to end a drought that has expanded over two decades.
The FIFA Coach of the Year is battling the struggle of a growing number of weary bodies riddled by fatigue following a lengthy-looking injury list that includes Naby Keita, Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathaniel Clyne and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Liverpool have been handed one of the most gruelling fixture schedules so far following 32 matches this season – including trips to Istanbul to win the European Super Cup and Qatar to lift the Club World Cup – and the team are in need of a serious rest.
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The magnitude of the 235th Merseyside derby, however, will not cloud Klopp’s judgement who revealed the protection of his players comes before anything else ahead of Sunday’s clash.
Speaking in his Friday press conference Klopp said: “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?’
‘People have told me already a couple of times I wouldn’t respect the cup competitions but that is not true.
‘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.”
The former Borussia Dortmund manager will reunite with the only managerial opponent to have got the better of the Liverpool boss so far this season after Carlo Ancelotti inspired Napoli’s 2-0 win against the Champions League holders in September.
Ancelotti has proven one of Liverpool’s greatest managerial rivals over the previous two decades, the former Real Madrid manager has won four of his previous five matches against the Reds.
However, Klopp will not let local pride cloud his judgement. He confirmed on Wednesday that Liverpool were down to 13 outfield players following a groin injury in the warm-up for Keita. Thankfully for the Reds, when they are as good as these players are, you do not need much more.
It wouldn’t be too surprising to see as many as 10 changes to the side that comfortably dispatched Sheffield Unite don Thursday. Takumi Minamino will hope to make his Liverpool debut against the club’s fiercest rivals on Sunday whilst Nat Phillips could also be expected to start after being recalled from his loan spell with German side Stuttgart and featuring on the bench against the Blades in midweek.