Neil Critchley took press conference duties on Monday, as he fills in for Jurgen Klopp for Liverpool’s League Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa.
The 41-year-old is more familiar with his role as under-23s manager, but on Tuesday night will be in the first-team dugout for a knockout tie at Villa Park.
Liverpool are facing difficult odds as a largely inexperienced side will take to the field against an out-of-form but considerably stronger Villa, aiming for a place in the semi-finals.
With the senior squad already in Qatar for the Club World Cup, Critchley will be without two of his academy regulars in Neco Williams and Curtis Jones, while Yasser Larouci and Rhian Brewster are injury doubts.
But he believes the staff he has alongside him will ease any nerves for a selection drawn from both the U23s and under-18s ranks, urging them to “play like a Liverpool team.”
“The group of players that will take to the pitch is one that I work with constantly, so it’s not like we’re throwing a team together,” he explained.
“We’ll be well prepared, we’ve got enough time, we know how we’re going to approach the game, and it’s important that we go and play like a Liverpool team.
“So we can only control what we can control, what we can guarantee on the pitch tomorrow night.
“And the pressure from us will be is [that] we go and play like a Liverpool team, and that will be important to us.”
Though Klopp will be absent, Critchley added that “he’ll be watching the game with great interest,” stressing the focus the first-team manager places on the club’s youngsters.
“I’m sure he’ll be in touch with us, he takes great interest in our young players,” he said.
“I’m very fortunate that I can come down to Melwood whenever I can, I have access to come and speak to him and watch the training.
“He’s fully aware of all our young players, who they are, and he asks me questions about them constantly.
“So I’m sure he’ll be watching the game with great interest tomorrow night.”
The quarter-final will, of course, be played at 10.45pm local time in Doha, and with Liverpool preparing for the Club World Cup semi-final against Monterrey the following evening, Klopp may be required to catch up in the morning.
But there is no doubt he will be following the progress of the Reds’ youth talents closely, as some may fly out to Qatar after the game.
UPDATE: Elliott, Hoever and Van den Berg have been added to the Club World Cup squad (full story here).