Jurgen Klopp is set to make wholesale changes to Liverpool’s starting team against MK Dons, with debuts potentially arriving for several young Reds.
It is expected that Klopp will take the opportunity to use the League Cup tie to conduct heavy rotation.
Key players will be handed much-needed rests, meaning the squad will be comprised of fringe players and some of the club’s upcoming talents.
Plenty of Reds, inexperienced and senior, will be hoping for valuable playing time at Stadium MK.
An exciting, youthful team is set to feature and here is how we predict Liverpool could line up.
Injury Update & Rested Reds
Klopp is all set to make significant changes but, frustratingly, Xherdan Shaqiri won’t be among them due to an ill-timed calf injury.
Neither will Divock Origi, who is improving but not quite ready, as is the case with Alisson.
There’s better luck for Naby Keita, who Pepijn Lijnders confirmed in his pre-match press conference is “in a really good way” and ready to play.
Lijnders kept his cards close to his chest on the possible selection and no names were given on who exactly will be rested.
It’s safe to assume most if not all of the regular starting team will be given the night off.
The entire first-choice defence of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson should all be rested.
The same applies to the front three, with Sadio Mane—who is nursing a dead leg—Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino all needed to be fresh for Sheffield United on Saturday.
Fabinho has started all but one game this season and is another likely to be left out.
There are more than enough options to also give Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson a chance to recharge.
Meanwhile, Klopp should avoid any risk with Adrian while Alisson remains sidelined.
Potential Debutants, Likely Starters & Young Hopefuls
Everything points to Caoimhin Kelleher and Rhian Brewster being handed their first-team debuts.
Summer signing Harvey Elliott—the youngest player to ever feature in the competition—is also in contention for a debut.
Addressing the media, Lijnders spoke of the importance of youngsters playing alongside senior players on such occasions:
“Young players need examples around them, they need models and they need to be able to compete.
“If we put young players in a game with senior players around them, that’s the perfect way to develop. First they can see, and they are protected.
“So say we play a left winger, a young one, and our left defender or left midfielder is a senior player, that triangle, that side, he gets protected.”
Plenty of established options are available, including Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren who should come in to form an experienced pairing.
James Milner and Adam Lallana seem certain starters, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain another who would benefit from an extended runout.
Those senior figures will help create opportunities for several young hopefuls.
Ki-Jana Hoever and Yasser Larouci—who shone in pre-season—will hope to be those chosen to step into the full-back positions, although the latter has taken a knock himself.
Curtis Jones will be desperate for a chance to shine on the big stage after impressing as captain of the U23s, while Adam Lewis and summer recruit Sepp van den Berg could also be drafted in.
Andy Lonergan could enjoy matchday inclusion for the first time since Southampton away.
Liverpool’s Starting XI vs. MK Dons
There are enough senior players and youngsters to make 11 changes, and that is what Klopp should do while retaining the usual first-team 4-3-3 system.
Kelleher will make his bow and should do so behind a new-look back four.
Hoever and Larouci, if fit, should step into the vital full-back roles either side of the Gomez-Lovren central partnership.
A reshaped midfield trio could see Lallana play at the base as experimented with in pre-season, with Milner and Keita taking up the advanced roles.
A hugely exciting front three could see Jones and Elliott operate as the supply line for Brewster.
Kelleher; Hoever, Gomez, Lovren, Larouci; Lallana, Milner, Keita; Elliott, Jones, Brewster
Given Lijnders’ words on the need for balance, the attack suggested in the first lineup may not quite fulfil that requirement.
It could be that two of the three are retained, with a senior figure introduced to provide support.
Oxlade-Chamberlain could enter here, perhaps for Elliott who can then be utilised from the bench under less pressure.
Meanwhile, Lewis may get the nod at left-back with Larouci a fitness concern having missed the under-23s’ 2-2 draw with Leicester last time out.
Kelleher; Hoever, Gomez, Lovren, Lewis; Lallana, Milner, Keita; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Brewster
The League Cup may not be Liverpool’s main focus, but Wednesday’s tie provides Reds young and senior with a great chance to shine.
And against League One opposition, either of the lineups suggested should be enough to secure passage to the fourth round for the first time since 2016.