Jurgen Klopp has promised to field another shadow side for Liverpool’s FA Cup replay with Exeter.
Liverpool avoided their first FA Cup defeat to fourth-tier opposition when Brad Smith salvaged a 2-2 draw for Klopp’s kids with a 72nd-minute equaliser on Friday night.
The seven-time winners survived in the competition but the downside for Liverpool was yet another match, and Klopp could not hide his bemusement at a testing schedule which could now bring six games in 18 days.
Liverpool face home matches with Arsenal and Manchester United in the Barclays Premier League, the Exeter replay, a league visit to Norwich, a Capital One Cup semi-final, second leg tie against Stoke and a potential FA Cup fourth-round match before the end of January.
“I can’t believe we have another game,” Klopp said. “It is difficult.
“We had more games than some other teams because we are still in the Capital One Cup, we play Europa League and that’s not going to change.
“But I knew about the schedule before, so this situation is no problem.”
Liverpool’s injury count might beg to differ with that final Klopp assessment. Without 13 first-team players out injured, the German made 11 changes from the side which had beaten Stoke 1-0 on Tuesday night to eke out an advantage in their Capital One Cup semi-final.
Tiago Ilori, Kevin Stewart, Ryan Kent, Sheyi Ojo and Joe Maguire all made first-team debuts as Liverpool fielded one of the most inexperienced teams in their history, with only striker Christian Benteke having made more than five appearances for the club this season.
But Klopp said Liverpool’s narrow escape in Devon would have no bearing on his selection for the Anfield return.
“The situation doesn’t change, we will play the same team,” Klopp said. “We have to see the young players, I can’t change it. We have to give intensity to different players.
“We have to do this and accept what happens in the FA Cup.”
Jose Enrique was called up for his first game since an FA Cup tie against Bolton last January and the left-back settled into central defence.
“The main problem is that our centre-halves are injured at this moment, it’s like when you have three goalkeepers injured,” Klopp said.
“You just say ‘OK, I could not be prepared for this’.
“We had five centre-halves at the beginning of the season and at this moment we have no centre-halves.
“But next week it could be different, we will have to see what we can do, work on it and go on.”
Exeter, meanwhile, are celebrating a replay which will act as a financial godsend for the Sky Bet League Two club.
The supporters-owned Grecian live a hand-to-mouth existence, by the admission of their own manager Paul Tisdale, but Exeter could earn over £500,000 from the Anfield replay through cash receipts and television fees.
“We’re a cash-flow business and every month we spend every penny we have,” Tisdale said. “Every spare penny goes into the playing budget. It’s a simple business plan but it’s a difficult one to manage.
“We are very frugal and I spend the money I’m given for the playing budget as if it’s my own.
“We’ve had two or three years of steady financial decline, sold Matt Grimes to Swansea last year, and money’s come back into the club.
“It’s funny when the wheels are turning you get another push, and hopefully the future’s rosy because of this.
“We are going to get a pay day and I can’t over-emphasise how important this will be for a club like Exeter.”
* The date for the replay has not yet been confirmed but looks likely to be Janaury 20th – three days after Man United, and three days before Norwich away on the Saturday lunchtime kick-off.
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