Pepijn Lijnders predicts Liverpool’s League Cup trip to MK Dons “will be a day where Naby Keita will shine,” as he vows fans will see a “Premier League team.”
Though Jurgen Klopp is expected to rest the majority, or all, of his first-choice starters at Stadium MK—whether due to much-needed rest or recovery from injury—a host of senior players are in contention.
Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, Joe Gomez and James Milner could all start, with the Reds rotating but retaining an experienced core to allow those youngsters brought in to settle.
One player who is set to feature for the first time since the Community Shield is Keita, who has been sidelined with a hip injury since early August.
Taking press conference duties after Klopp’s award-winning night in Milan on Monday, Lijnders was effusive in his praise of Keita, and indicated the Guinean will start in Milton Keynes.
“I will not give the team but he is in a really good way!” the Dutchman said.
“What a boy, he makes our buildup play completely different, he creates unpredictability in how the ball moves forward.
“He’s an important player, and hopefully we can use him in the next few weeks.
“But tomorrow will be a day where he will shine.”
Liverpool have not progressed beyond the third round of the League Cup since 2016/17, with a mixed side falling to Leicester and Chelsea at this stage in the past two seasons.
MK Dons, however, head into the tie sitting 15th in League One, and on paper are much more comfortable opponent for the rotated Reds.
Either way, Lijnders explained why he feels the club should take the League Cup and FA Cup seriously, describing them as “the soul of football” and pledging that Klopp would field a “Premier League team.”
“We want to compete in this competition, we want to attack each competition,” he continued.
“We work so hard to be in this situation where we can compete in each one.
“For me, cup competitions are the soul of football. Because it represents a past, where smaller clubs can play against Premier League clubs for example, and give historic games to fans, local fans.
“It showed that already, and that’s what we hope again tomorrow.
“But for me the cup competitions are something special, it’s when two local teams play against each other, that environment you get with the cup competitions.
“So we want to attack this cup, we want to attack tomorrow’s game of course.
“We will put a team in place which, for me, is a Premier League team. And the players feel this responsibility as well, because we are up to this.
“A highly motivated team plays against us. They really look forward to it, I really look forward to it, it’s just another opportunity to put our identity in place, to show our passion.
“We prepare the game in the same way as we prepare Chelsea, with the same accents, probably even more detail, but with the same hunger to win it.”
Caoimhin Kelleher and Rhian Brewster are expected to debut at Stadium MK, while Harvey Elliott is under consideration for a place, but Xherdan Shaqiri, Sadio Mane and Divock Origi will miss out.