Jurgen Klopp was miraculously able to inspire victory in the 235th Merseyside derby despite making nine changes from the side that increased their Premier League advantage to 13 points with victory over Sheffield United on Thursday – including three debutants in Takumi Minamino, Nathaniel Phillips and substitute Yasser Larouci.
Curtis Jones emerged as the hero after the 18-year-old curled in a stunning effort from outside the area as a youthful Liverpool side beat Carlo Ancelotti’s full-strength Blues 1-0 – but Lucas Leiva has reserved praise for another of Liverpool’s young guns.
The current Lazio star – who made 346 appearances during a decade with Liverpool from 2007 – 2017 – chose not to praise goalscorer Jones, but instead, someone who may have gone under the radar despite a glowing performance – he picked out Pedro Chirivella.
Chirivella, 22, starred alongside Adam Lallana in midfield as the duo dominated possession and controlled the tempo of the match from start-to-finish. The Spaniard is out-of-contract this summer following a stop-start Liverpool career following a move from Valencia in 2013.
The Spain U17 star was one of the Reds’ more senior players in a side that included 16-year-old Harvey Elliott, 18-year-old duo Neco Williams and Jones as well as 19-year-old debutant Yasser Larouci. Chirivella recently captained Liverpool’s senior side in the Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Aston Villa in December.
Chirivella has only featured nine times for the Reds during a six-and-a-half-year spell on Merseyside. He has had numerous loan moves away from the club including two separate spells in the Netherlands.
However, he did fail to make a single appearance for Spanish side Extremadura on loan last season due to registration rules summed up his career so far. Liverpool were fined £200,000 for fielding Chirivella who was deemed an ineligible player during their 2-0 win over MK Dons in the EFL Cup in September.
Despite the significant setbacks, Chirivella was able to produce a stunning performance against the club’s bitter rivals and Lucas was full of praise for the man who shined in the position the Brazilian made his own during his time at the club.
What a performance @pedrochb97 !! Muy bien amigo 👏👏👏😘😘😘
— Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87) January 5, 2020
Thank you IDOL❤️ https://t.co/6Bimr5zadY
— Pedro Chirivella (@pedrochb97) January 5, 2020
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Despite having featured five times for the senior side back in Klopp’s debut season in 2015/16, Chirivella has never quite made the permanent breakthrough from the U23s to Liverpool’s world-dominating first-team.
However, with his contract soon expiring, this was the perfect audition from Chirivella to convince the manager that he perhaps is worthy of a bumper new deal.
Having safely secured passage into the fourth round of the competition, Liverpool’s young guns will have the opportunity to showcase their talents again with Klopp’s first-team options having a preference on the Premier League and Champions League as opposed to the FA Cup.
The fourth round will take place on the weekend of Saturday, 25th January and could even be Chirivella’s last outing in a Liverpool shirt. However, if he continues to impress similarly as he did on Sunday, the Spaniard may force Klopp’s hand into beginning fresh contract negotiations.