Liverpool are set for an extraordinary week, with personnel to be divided between two games taking place across two continents in less than a 24 hour period.
The Reds’ Club World Cup exploits ensure Jurgen Klopp and his senior figures will be in Qatar preparing for their semi-final matchup on December 18 while a young outfit led by Neil Critchley will be gearing up for the League Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa the day prior.
And while initial suggestions had been that two distinct squads would be used, the likes of Harvey Elliott, Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones and Neco Williams are set to feature against Villa before flying out to Qatar.
An incredible opportunity now awaits Critchley and Liverpool’s young brigade as they prepare to go toe to toe with Villa – an occasion which the U23s boss feels is one where there is “nothing to lose.”
“It’s just a great opportunity,” Critchley told the club’s website.
“Unusual circumstances, quite unique circumstances really and I’m not sure it’s happened too many times or maybe it’s not happened in the past. The club have obviously tried to find what they think is the best solution.
“This is the circumstance, or what’s arisen, and [for] me and the staff and our players it will be one that we relish and look forward to hopefully with great optimism on the night.
“I think we’ve got nothing to lose, we’ve got nothing to fear and we just have to see it as an opportunity,” he continued.
“Aston Villa away in the quarter-final, you’d expect it to be a really good crowd, they won’t be resting any of their players because they have the chance to reach the semi-final and they’ll be going flat out.
“I just see it as nothing but a fabulous opportunity for these young players to go and prove where they want to be in the future and hopefully come the end of the game the supporters and people watching the game will have a real positive opinion of our young players.”
With a host of youngsters having been given the nod in the two previous wins over MK Dons and Arsenal, Liverpool fans have already been provided with a promising glimpse into the club’s future.
They are moments none will forget anytime soon and similar memories could now lie in wait for the likes of Yasser Larouci and Elijah Dixon-Bonner, and Critchley is overjoyed to see more first team football on the cards for those in the academy.
“That’s got to be your proudest moment, but obviously for them and their families first and foremost,” Critchley added.
“That’s probably better than any win you would have at the weekend or better than any three points you pick up, to see someone realise their dream of playing for Liverpool’s first team, and particularly at the moment with how good our first team is. To get any game is an achievement.
“We had a few involved at MK Dons and more against Arsenal. Again, you have to give credit to the manager for playing these players. You look at the teamsheet against Arsenal and you see their team and you generally think, ‘OK, it’s going to be a tough old night this’.
“The response they showed after being 3-1 down and 5-4 down, and their response and willingness to keep fighting and keep going right until the end, was credit to those boys.
“The mentality that the manager tries to instil in all these players, we try to replicate that and I think that was a good example of them coming together on the night and getting the benefit of that.
“It was a great moment but, again, you don’t want that just to be their one game or their third game, you want it to be 50 and beyond. That’s what we are looking for.”