Whether it’s the manager’s methods or simply bad luck, Liverpool’s injury crisis is one of the deepest in recent memory, meaning Jurgen Klopp is likely to field something resembling a reserve team at Exeter in the FA Cup.
With Kolo Toure the last of four senior centre-halves in Klopp’s squad to be ruled out of the third-round trip down to Devon, by his own admission the German will be forced into making wholesale changes on Friday night.
There are now a full 11 first-team players on the Anfield injury list.
Three youngsters, Tiago Illori, Sheyi Ojo and Ryan Kent, have all been recalled to Anfield from separate loan spells at Aston Villa, Wolves and Coventry with immediate effect as to be available for the televised fixture.
The Liverpool Echo seem convinced Klopp will play “the kids” at St James’ Park and if they have the right inside track, a blend of these largely unfamiliar faces could well be in line for a start:
Brad Smith 21 (left-back/winger) Liverpool appearances 4
Something of a veteran in terms of age and appearances compared to many on the fringes, despite the Australian very nearly leaving the club before Klopp came in.
Cameron Brannigan 19 (midfielder) Liverpool appearances 3
The England U20 attacking midfielder has been on the fringes this season, making several squads and earning a first start in the Capital One Cup, so he’s likely to be given game time in Devon.
Connor Randall 21 (right-back) Liverpool appearances 2
The local lad from Kirby has also warmed the bench numerous times in 2015 and like Brannigan made his full Reds bow against Bournemouth in the League Cup.
Pedro Chirivella 18 (midfielder) Liverpool appearances 1
The Spanish central midfielder impressed in his only cameo so far, getting 60 minutes at Bordeaux in the Europa League, though that was under Brendan Rodgers.
Joao Teixeira 22 (midfielder) Liverpool appearances 1
The talented Portuguese centre-mid has gained far more senior experience than most of the other fringe players, namely spending last season on loan at Brighton, scoring five times in 26 appearances.
Tiago Illori 22 (centre-back) Liverpool appearances 0
Despite signing for £7m from Bordeaux in September 2013, the man recalled from a season-long loan at Aston Villa is strangely yet to make a senior appearance in English football. Maybe he will finally get a chance at Exeter, given the gaping hole in Liverpool’s defence right now.
Dan Cleary 19 (centre-back) Liverpool appearances 0
An Irish youth international, Cleary’s specialist centre-half skills also make him a candidate, although he’s yet to make a matchday squad.
Ryan Kent 19 (winger/forward) Liverpool appearances 0
The teenage winger has been a regular at League One high-flyers Coventry this season, making 17 appearances for the Sky Blues and scoring once.
Jerome Sinclair 19 (Striker) Liverpool appearances 0
Perhaps the unluckiest of Klopp’s fledgling bench warmers this season having not yet crossed the white line, the star striker from Liverpool’s academy will be desperate for some action.
Sheyi Ojo 18 (winger) Liverpool appearances 0
Another highly-promising player that Liverpool are keen to progress, Ojo has proved a hit at Molineux this season and offers genuine pace out wide.
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