Jurgen Klopp is hoping his rising young Liverpool stars are bursting with excitement and run for their lives as the Reds bid to cause a League Cup shock.
With the bulk of Klopp’s first-team squad on Club World Cup duty in Qatar this week, under-23 coach Neil Critchley will lead out a young, inexperienced side for the quarter-final clash at Aston Villa on Tuesday night.
Klopp has confirmed he will watch the game on television in his team’s hotel in Doha, along with his players, after first taking in the first World Club Cup semi-final between Flamengo and Al-Hilal.
Although Liverpool, unusually for the club this season, go into the game as underdogs, Klopp is far from ruling out the prospect of an upset.
“I know how a lot of people in the public see it,” Klopp told Liverpool’s official website.
“But if all the football games would be decided before we start, only because of the perception of the people, then most of the games wouldn’t be played. I believe, I’m a big believer in everybody has a chance.
“From the boys’ point of view, if I would be in their boots I would be excited like hell, looking forward to it like hell, run for my life, all that stuff.”
Klopp has urged Critchley’s squad “to give it a proper try” as they cheer on from afar.
“All our thoughts are with them, the more experienced players are looking forward to it, to watch the game and shout them forward from here,” added Klopp.
“Whatever we can do we will do, but Critch and his staff and the boys, I’m sure they’re really looking forward to it and will enjoy it.
“You can only enjoy football if you work hard and go for the result—whichever result it will be. Aston Villa is the big favourite, that’s clear, but who cares? It’s football and the ball rolls in each direction, that’s pretty cool.”
Critchley, meanwhile, is expecting to see Klopp’s winning mentality spread through to his young players, believing it to be a game he does not think they “can lose” due to the exceptional circumstances.
“We’re very fortunate here that our manager believes in young players and gives them an opportunity,” said Critchley, speaking at a press conference.
“You look at the last game against Arsenal and he was very brave in selecting young players, so you are never quite sure [what to expect] until they are given that opportunity.
“But what I would say is that the mentality that is bred into the first-team players here, seeps into the academy as well, and you can’t help but get influenced by what goes on above you.
“I like to think that our young players, as they showed against Arsenal in the last round, have a similar mentality, or are developing that mentality our first-team players produce on a weekly basis.
“We’ve got to go and give everything we’ve got, be there for each other, from the first whistle. I hope they go and prove to everyone watching tomorrow night what they are capable of.”
Critchley’s main doubt surrounds 19-year-old striker Rhian Brewster, who has played in both League Cup ties so far this season, who will be assessed after picking up an ankle injury in training.