Liverpool U23s 1-1 Chelsea U23s
Premier League 2, Kirkby
December 14, 2019
Goals: Jones 38′; Lawrence 76′
It was an extremely young Reds side that took to the field at Kirkby on Saturday afternoon, just three days before Neil Critchley takes charge for the ‘first team’ clash at Villa Park.
With Jurgen Klopp naming a full-strength squad for the Club World Cup, there is a mystery looming over who will line up against Villa in the quarter-final, though the U23s’ stalemate at home to Chelsea on Saturday gave a further indication.
Neco Williams was absent for the clash due to his involvement with the senior side against Watford, with a decidedly youthful side deployed.
There was no Caoimhin Kelleher, Ki-Jana Hoever, Sepp van den Berg, Yasser Larouci, Morgan Boyes, Pedro Chirivella, Herbie Kane, Isaac Christie-Davies, Harvey Elliott, Luis Longstaff, Tony Gallacher or Rhian Brewster.
Curtis Jones did start, but was substituted at half-time along with Layton Stewart, having broken the deadlock with a fine finish in the 38th minute.
In came a number of staples from Barry Lewtas’ under-18s side, with Conor Bradley and Remi Savage making their first U23s appearances of the campaign.
Meanwhile, Leighton Clarkson, Jake Cain, James Norris and the returning Jack Bearne enjoyed rare outings to fill in.
Henry Lawrence cancelled out Jones’ midway through the second half, but a second yellow for Chelsea‘s Tariq Lamptey reduced the visitors to 10 men and set up a tight finale.
Neither side could find the breakthrough needed, and the young Reds were left to settle for a point and turn their focus to Villa.
Given the physical and mental challenge of the quarter-final, it seems likely Critchley will start his most experienced and developed side.
Kelleher should, therefore, line up behind a back four of Williams, Hoever, Van den Berg and Larouci—with Adam Lewis still on the mend after injury—while Chirivella, Kane and Christie-Davies support Elliott, Jones and Brewster from midfield.
This would see the likes of Boyes, Gallacher and Longstaff on the bench, possibly along with Ben Winterbottom, Elijah Dixon-Bonner and one of Clarkson or Cain, while Stewart could be involved as he works his way back to full fitness.
Critchley should provide a more accurate view of his squad for the trip to Aston when he holds his pre-match press conference on Monday morning.
Liverpool U23s: Winterbottom; Bradley, Savage, Clayton, Norris; Clarkson, Cain, Dixon-Bonner; Bearne, Jones (Varesanovic 46′), Stewart (O’Rourke 46′)
Subs not used: Atherton, Walls, Quansah
Next Match: PSG (H) – PL International Cup – Friday, Dec 20, 1pm (GMT)