Quick guide to Liverpool’s young squad vs. Aston Villa, with 11 potential debutants

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Liverpool are set to field their youngest-ever side in the League Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa, with many making their senior debuts.

Neil Critchley will draw upon the Reds’ under-23s and under-18s ranks as they look to pull off the near-impossible at Villa Park.

With Jurgen Klopp and the first-team squad in Qatar for the Club World Cup, Liverpool agreed to field a makeshift side against the Premier League relegation candidates.

There will be some familiar faces involved, such is Klopp’s commitment to youth, but many could be unknown to those watching from the stands and on TV.

Here’s a brief lowdown on the youngsters set to be involved.

 

Caoimhin Kelleher

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, October 30, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during the Football League Cup 4th Round match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 21


This season’s League Cup goalkeeper, Kelleher has already started against both MK Dons and Arsenal in the previous rounds, and saved a penalty in the shootout to earn a place in the quarter-finals.

He has also been used sparingly for the under-23s, but typically travels with the first team on matchdays—and was named on the bench 10 times during Alisson‘s layoff.

 

Ben Winterbottom

ACCRINGTON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 29, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Ben Winterbottom during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group B match between Accrington Stanley and Liverpool FC at the Crown Ground. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 18


The most likely deputy for Kelleher, Winterbottom has been in fine form since joining from Blackburn Rovers in March.

An exceptional shot-stopper, the 18-year-old will provide real competition for Vitezslav Jaros and Jakub Ojrzynski when the pair return from injury.

 

Ki-Jana Hoever

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - Wednesday, July 31, 2019: Liverpool's Ki-Jana Hoever during a pre-season friendly match between Liverpool FC and Olympique Lyonnais at Stade de Genève. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back / Right-back
Age: 17


One of the most recognisable names in Critchley’s squad, Hoever could start at either centre-back or right-back at Villa Park.

He is arguably at his best in the latter at this stage in his development, but his blossoming partnership with Sepp van den Berg is worth persevering with.

 

Sepp van den Berg

OLDHAM, ENGLAND - Wednesday, August 7, 2019: Liverpool's Sepp van den Berg during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group B match between Oldham Athletic AFC and Liverpool FC at Boundary Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back
Age: 17


Van den Berg endured a shaky start to life at Liverpool, and was notably lax in the 3-2 loss to Oldham Athletic in the EFL Trophy back in August.

But the teenager has gone from strength to strength as he adapts to the pace and physicality of English football, and his height could be key to holding off Villa’s attack.

 

Morgan Boyes

GRÖDIG, AUSTRIA - Tuesday, December 10, 2019: Liverpool's substitute Morgan Boyes takes a throw-in during the final UEFA Youth League Group E match between FC Salzburg and Liverpool FC at the Untersberg-Arena. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back
Age: 18


If Hoever starts at right-back, Wales under-19s captain Boyes is the most likely candidate to join Van den Berg at the heart of the defence.

He operates at a tier below the Dutch duo, but is still a strong defender with a useful passing range, and whose flexibility allows him to deputise at left-back when required too.

 

Tom Clayton

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 10, 2019: Liverpool's Tom Clayton during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at the Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Centre-back
Age: 18


Reliable cover for the centre-backs if Critchley needs another option on the substitutes’ bench, Clayton has made the step up from U18s to U23s seamlessly this season.

 

Tony Gallacher

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 10, 2019: Liverpool's substitute Tony Gallacher during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC at the Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Right-back / Left-back
Age: 20


Arrived from Falkirk at the start of 2018 under the weight of expectation, having already established himself in the Scottish Championship and been welcomed to the club by Kenny Dalglish.

Things have moved slowly for Gallacher since, and he is likely to leave Liverpool on loan in January, but for now is a reliable option on either side of the defence.

 

Yasser Larouci

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, November 5, 2019: Liverpool's Yasser Larouci during the UEFA Youth League Group E match between Liverpool FC Under-19's and KRC Genk Under-19's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by Laura Malkin/Propaganda)

Position: Left-back
Age: 18


An injury doubt having not played for the academy since being substituted in the 7-0 thrashing of Napoli in the UEFA Youth League last month, but if fit Larouci is likely to start at left-back.

He already has first-team experience from pre-season, during which he was brutally scythed down by Joris Gnagnon in the 2-1 loss to Sevilla in Boston.

 

Pedro Chirivella

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, September 20, 2019: Liverpool's Pedro Chirivella celebrates after team-mate Luis Longstaff scores an injury time equalising goal during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at Holmes Park. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 22


The most bankable option as captain, Chirivella is one of the most experienced players in Critchley’s squad from both his time at Liverpool and on loan with Go Ahead Eagles and Willem II in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Should start in the No. 6 role, with his long-range passing a key outlet.

 

Herbie Kane

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, September 20, 2019: Liverpool's Herbie Kane during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at Holmes Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 21


Like Chirivella, Kane heads into this game knowing more than most what to expect, having cut his teeth with Doncaster in League One last term.

The mobile, goalscoring midfielder was named in the third-tier Team of the Season, and made his Liverpool debut off the bench against MK Dons.

 

Elijah Dixon-Bonner

ACCRINGTON, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 29, 2019: Liverpool's Elijah Dixon-Bonner celebrates scoring the first goal during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group B match between Accrington Stanley and Liverpool FC at the Crown Ground. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 18


Critchley has relied heavily upon Dixon-Bonner so far this season, and this could be reflected in his selection at Villa Park.

The 18-year-old has made more appearances than any other academy player (24), scoring five goals and assisting a further five, and captained the young Reds in the EFL Trophy against Fleetwood and Accrington Stanley.

 

Leighton Clarkson

GENK, BELGIUM - Wednesday, October 23, 2019: Liverpool's Leighton Clarkson during the UEFA Youth League Group E match between KRC Genk Under-19's and Liverpool FC Under-19's at the KRC Genk Arena Stadium B. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Central midfielder
Age: 18


Clarkson has an outside chance of making the squad, despite barely featuring for Critchley at U23 level so far—only making his first start on Saturday against Chelsea.

He has been outstanding for the U18s, however, and in all competitions this season he has created 12 goals—more than any other player at academy level.

The teenager has also trained regularly with the first team, and was on the bench in both of the previous rounds.

 

Isaac Christie-Davies

OLDHAM, ENGLAND - Wednesday, August 7, 2019: Liverpool's Issac Christie-Davies (L) challenges Oldham Athletic's Mohamad Sylla during the English Football League Trophy Northern Group B match between Oldham Athletic AFC and Liverpool FC at Boundary Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Attacking midfielder
Age: 22


Christie-Davies can often be found making up the numbers at Melwood, and though injury has disrupted his campaign he is seen as a valuable player by Critchley.

The Welshman could be used in a variety of roles, including a possible stand-in duty up front.

 

Jake Cain

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 5, 2019: Liverpool's Jack Cain (R) celebrates scoring the fourth goal with team-mate Niall Brookwell during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC at Finch Farm. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Attacking midfielder
Age: 18


Like Clarkson, Cain is unlikely to trouble the starting lineup, but he can be considered one of the most promising young talents in Liverpool’s academy.

An attacking midfielder with a real eye for goal—scoring seven already this season—Cain has recently trained as part of Klopp’s senior squad.

 

Rhian Brewster

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - Wednesday, September 25, 2019: Liverpool's Rhian Brewster during the pre-match warm-up before the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between MK Dons FC and Liverpool FC at Stadium MK. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Striker
Age: 19


Brewster is considered a doubt for this clash, with the striker not having featured at any level since a 2-1 win over the Sunderland U23s in mid-November, but if he is fit he will be desperate to start.

Klopp has made sure there is a clear pathway for Brewster into the first team, but this could be one of his last outings for the Reds this season, with a loan lined up next month.

 

Layton Stewart

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Saturday, August 31, 2019: Liverpool's Layton Stewart during the Under-18 FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Striker
Age: 17


The next big attacking hope for Liverpool, Stewart has stepped up from the under-16s and filled the void left by Bobby Duncan and the injured Paul Glatzel exceptionally.

So far only Curtis Jones (13) has scored more goals for the academy than the Scouser (10), who himself is struggling with fitness issues and may not start.

 

Harvey Elliott

KIRKBY, ENGLAND - Tuesday, November 5, 2019: Liverpool's Harvey Elliott during the UEFA Youth League Group E match between Liverpool FC Under-19's and KRC Genk Under-19's at the Liverpool Academy. (Pic by Laura Malkin/Propaganda)

Position: Winger
Age: 16


Quite possibly the youngest player in Critchley’s squad, Elliott will also be one of the most important and familiar, having hit the ground running since his summer move from Fulham.

In 18 games for the academy this season, Elliott has scored three goals and laid on seven, while also catching the eye against both MK Dons and Arsenal.

 

Luis Longstaff

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Friday, September 20, 2019: Liverpool's Luis Longstaff during the Under-23 FA Premier League 2 Division 1 match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at Holmes Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Position: Winger
Age: 18


No relation to Newcastle duo Matty and Sean despite joining from the Magpies, Longstaff is a skilful, versatile forward who has been with Liverpool since 2015.

Twelve of his 19 appearances for the academy this season have been as a starter, and many in a new role up front, while he was on the bench at MK Dons in September.

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