As satisfactory as forging a lead in their Capital One Cup semi-final was, the collateral damage Liverpool sustained at Stoke curtailed the celebratory mood at the Britannia somewhat and leaves Jurgen Klopp little choice but to field a reserve team at Exeter City next.
It was a rousing and much-needed response to a dismal display at West Ham in the Premier League, as Liverpool resembled the same slick, hungry outfit associated with prior away victories at Manchester City and Southampton under Klopp.
The 1-0 scoreline flattered Stoke in truth as the Potters’ recent stellar form was hurried out of them under the cosh of the Reds’ incessant pressing, with the most frequent winners of the League Cup now priced up as joint 6/5 favourites to lift it for a ninth time ahead of the return leg at Anfield.
Injury crisis deepened at Anfield
However, a succession of hamstring injuries on the night, firstly to playmaker Philippe Coutinho, and perhaps more crucially to centre-half Dejan Lovren in the 34th minute, added unwanted bodies to the current injury crisis at Anfield, with midfielder Lucas forced into filling in next to Kolo Toure for the remainder of the game.
Even Toure pulled up with apparent cramp in his hamstring by the end of proceedings, leaving Liverpool’s squad looking increasingly threadbare in central defence heading down to Devon for Friday’s FA Cup encounter with the League Two Grecians.
Two games in the space of 72 hours is bound to stretch the fitness of 34-year-old Ivorian defender Toure, who cannot be paired with any of Liverpool’s regular first-choice defenders, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel or Lovren, all unavailable through injury.
Time to play “the kids” in Devon.
Although the third-round game will be televised on the BBC, Klopp is left with little choice but to risk the embarrassment of a loss or even a draw against Paul Tisdale’s side, by utilising many of his young fringe players.
Gambling on more injury setbacks to key personnel would be most unwise given the genuine chance of silverware now on the horizon for Klopp, especially with a European campaign still in the offing and a waning top-four challenge to resurrect.
Gilt-edged chance at glory cannot be spurned
With glory in the Capital One Cup potentially just a draw and one win away, it should be given complete focus over any another knockout competition.
The FA Cup is an important competition in isolation, but with injuries mounting up in rapid fashion for the German tactician, he must push it to the bottom of his priority list.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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