With all the focus on Liverpool wrapping up a first league title since 1990, there is the tendency to forget of the opportunities that come with the Reds’ unprecedented top-flight dominance.
Jurgen Klopp’s team are just six league wins away from PL immortality and we are still only in February. This presents a rare possibility of being able to integrate some of the club’s youngsters in vital matches of the season to showcase the club’s unwavering faith in its academy system.
With Liverpool’s previous fixture being the inspiring Shrewsbury Town victory where the kids took centre stage to ensure Klopp’s progression into the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time since the German’s appointment in 2015 could the boss be tempted to reward some of the club’s brightest upcoming stars?
There is a strong case that Curtis Jones has done enough to warrant some Premier League experience when the European champions travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City on Saturday.
Rested and raring to go
Whilst it’s important that the senior players have had a couple of weeks off, Klopp could be forgiven if he were prioritising Liverpool’s Champions League clash away to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, just three days after the Reds’ trip to the Canaries.
With that in mind, could Klopp hand Jones his first PL start with such a gargantuan European fixture so close to beckoning?
Fabinho has only started one league match since November and may not want to be risked at the weekend. Meanwhile, Henderson has flourished in the holding role which could tempt the Reds manager to keep the skipper as the pinpoint come Saturday.
Also, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was utilised on the wing in the 4-0 victory against Southampton meaning a simple like-for-like alteration could see Jones move into the front-three and Oxlade-Chamberlain pulled back into the midfield trident.
How he fits in
Liverpool were handed a major boost when Sadio Mane recently returned to training following a hamstring injury sustained during the 2-1 victory at Molineux last month. The Senegalese ace is unlikely to start against Norwich with Liverpool having to balance three competitions in the next month and Mane so raw from injury.
Following an inspired performance against the Shrews where Jones became Liverpool’s youngest ever club-captain in a competitive game, the 19-year-old has the advantage of being fresher from match action than any of his teammates.
Klopp has to meticulously manage his options in the defining period of the season meaning young players like Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams must be ready to be called upon.
Having recently signed a contract extension until 2024, Klopp was installed to oversee not just the remaining years of his current world-conquering squad but also to begin incorporating the next generation of Liverpool stars who will have similar aspirations of winning league titles.
With the games coming thick and fast, don’t be surprised if Klopp begins to entrust more responsibility on some of the club’s fringe players.