Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota are both set for their first Liverpool starts tonight as the Reds travel to Sincil Bank to face Lincoln City in the third round of the Carabao Cup, claim The Mirror.
Thiago, 29, was handed his club debut during Liverpool’s victory at Stamford Bridge at the weekend. The Spaniard’s statistical output was nothing shy of extraordinary. The 75 passes he completed in the second half were the most by any player over the course of 45 minutes since such Premier League data was recorded and more than any Chelsea player managed over entire 90 minutes.
Jota, 23, meanwhile, will be desperate to feature for his new club following his £45 million move from Wolves. The Portugal international is yet to feature this season and will look to be brought up to speed against Lincoln.
Both to start
Assistant manager Pep Lijnders teased in his Wednesday press-conference that both new signings could make their full Liverpool debuts in the League Cup.
Jurgen Klopp’s right-hand man provided the media with an insight as to what both players can offer Liverpool and how they can take the Premier League champions to another level this season.
When asked if Thiago, whose previous competitive start was in the Champions League final, is too good a player to appear at Lincoln in a League Cup game, Lijnders replied: “The German competition is like this as well.
“A lot of times you draw a third division club in Germany you play away, that’s how they try to help, so he knows these kind of teams. He knows those games.”
Thiago has only previously played a lower league club in his career on one occasion, in the German Cup at SV Rodinhausen, who are a fourth-tier team in Germany, which would indicate that an evening at Sincil Bank could be something of a culture shock for the £25 million signing.
However, Liverpool’s addition of Thiago coupled with no major departures in the midfielder area indicate that Klopp is sufficiently stocked in that regard and can afford to feature a serial winner in the League Cup who has 23 honours at club level to his name.
Thiago provides an instant injection of quality to Klopp’s PL-winning squad and his status as one of the world’s best midfielders indicate there will be no bedding in period at the club similarly to that when Naby Keita and Fabinho joined the club.
Lijnders’ assessment of Thiago was something that will excite Liverpool fans, as he explained the thinking about bringing the technically brilliant Spain international midfielder to Anfield.
“With some signings you get direct improvements, like a keeper making saves, a striker scoring goals. But indirect development is the most important of signings,” he explained.
“Because he is so calm and he plays so many creative passes all the other players start playing like that. This is the power of the example, the power of models. He will not only improve our game but improve all the other players.
“This team deserves a player like him. He will make sure that we keep evolving. Teams adapt, teams try to destroy our plans, and it’s most important that we stay unpredictable. Thiago gives us unpredictability in the spine. He will add something to our team.”
A number of potential debuts
The same can be applied to Jota who will offer some much-needed cover to Liverpool’s pedigreed front-three and the former Atletico Madrid forward’s arrvial will ensure there isn’t a major drop-off in quality in the absence of either Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino.
Jota has been signed to add quality from the bench rather than an instant starter, but Lijnders – who played against Liverpool’s newest recruit when he was a young player in Portugal – believes he is far more than a backup player, and due to the nature of the congestion with fixtures will get plenty of games for his new club.
“What can I say? His technical level is on the same as our front three. He has so much future in the game and he will have a great pathway inside our club. He’s like a pressing monster, so he will fit in straight away!”
There could also be a debut for Liverpool’s other summer recruit Kostas Tsimikas, who is expected to slot in at left-back for Andy Robertson.
The injuries of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip have also forced Klopp’s hand to consider some of his younger options to cover in central defence. Billy Koumetio had a late fitness assessment on Wednesday which could hand a senior debut for 19-year-old Rhys Williams.
The academy graduate will likely partner Sepp van den Berg, with Gomez hopeful of making a return to fitness in time for Liverpool’s Monday night clash with Arsenal.
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