A young Liverpool side host Shrewsbury under the Anfield lights with a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup against Chelsea on the line.
Liverpool vs. Shrewsbury
Tuesday, February 4, 2020 – 7.45pm (GMT)
FA Cup Fourth Round Replay
Referee: Andrew Madley
Jurgen Klopp hit the headlines in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Shrewsbury after revealing neither he or senior members of his squad would be present at Anfield for the replay.
The task was instead handed to Neil Critchley and the Reds’ rising stars for the second time this season, having taken their place in the League Cup clash with Aston Villa in December.
The average age of Liverpool’s side that evening was just shy of 20 years old, and a similar lineup is expected at Anfield against the League One side.
Despite falling to a 5-0 defeat on that occasion, the young Reds more than held their own and now find themselves with another opportunity on the big stage at Anfield.
Liverpool’s first team moved 22 points clear at the summit after turning on the afterburners to clinch a 4-0 win over Southampton, with Man City‘s 2-0 defeat ensuring Klopp’s side moved one step closer to the holy grail.
At academy level, the U23s and U18s sit fifth and second in their respective league tables as the good feeling across all areas of the club continues.
And Curtis Jones, who opened the scoring at Shrewsbury, will once again feature while the likes of Harvey Elliott, Neco Williams, Pedro Chirivella, Caoimhin Kelleher and Ki-Jana Hoever will all lineup alongside the 19-year-old.
With Herbie Kane, Nat Phillips and Rhian Brewster out on loan, the evening could again pave the way for more debutants with Jake Cain, Joe Hardy, Layton Stewart and Tom Clayton all in the mix.
Realistic expectations surround Liverpool’s ability to progress, but the outing will provide another invaluable opportunity and who knows, maybe the young Reds will be capable of doing what Klopp’s XI at New Meadow could not.
Klopp’s decision to “respect” the winter break ensured every senior member of the squad was given the green light to take a step back from competitive action.
It ensured plenty of the debate surrounding the decision centred around those on the fringes and returning from injury were deprived of the chance to find their feet once more ahead of the run-in.
And while there is certainly merit to that position, the decision was made in advance and now Critchley will oversee his youngsters at Anfield, which will be “an under-19 or under-20 team at best.”
The only injury concern heading into the clash surrounds left-back Yasser Larouci, who picked up a hamstring injury early into the U23s’ draw at Wolves last Wednesday, with Critchley explaining that he has two training sessions to prove hit fitness.
However, the Reds have a number of options to turn to in his absence with the most obvious replacement coming in the form of Adam Lewis, who has not long returned from a knee ligament injury which kept him sidelined for four months.
As aforementioned, the more experienced members of the brigade will take to the field, with Hoever likely to partner Sepp van den Berg at the back, while Elliott lines up alongside Liam Millar and Hardy in attack.
Tom Hill, Leighton Clarkson, Luis Longstaff and Morgan Boyes could all feature in the matchday squad, with the impressive Cain, 18, also set for a place in the side.
Shrewsbury, meanwhile, head into the clash with no fresh injuries for Sam Ricketts to consider, with Cummings likely to start from the off as Shrewsbury look to clinch just their second win across all competitions in 11 games.
Potential Liverpool XI: Kelleher; Williams, Van den Berg, Hoever, Lewis; Chirivella, Clarkson, Jones; Elliott, Millar, Hardy
Did You Know?
The Reds have had 16 debutants so far this season for players aged 21 and under, and it’s 18 if you include both Adrian and Takumi Minamino.
It is a number surpassed by only the 2015/16 season, where 19 players made their Liverpool bow – a campaign which saw the club shift from Brendan Rodgers to Klopp.
Notably, the Reds’ meeting with Villa in the fifth round of the League Cup holds the record for the most debuts in a single game, with eight donning the red shirt for the first time, surpassing the previous record of six set in the Premier League win over Sheffield Wednesday in 1999.
And the outing against Shrewsbury could see the Reds’ number of debutants continue to rise, with Hardy, Millar, Lewis and Cain all in contention.
Liverpool – Last five results (all competitions)
Won 4-0 vs. Southampton
Won 2-0 vs. West Ham
Drew 2-2 vs. Shrewsbury
Won 2-1 vs. Wolves
Won 2-0 vs. Man United
Shrewsbury – Last five results (all competitions)
Lost 1-0 vs. Rochdale
Lost 2-0 vs. Gillingham
Drew 2-2 vs. Liverpool
Drew 2-2 vs. Fleetwood
Won 1-0 vs. Bristol City
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Critchley spoke of his side’s previous experience at Villa and how he was looking for an improved output in both penalty boxes at Anfield:
“I was pleased with a lot of aspects about that performance, but I also couldn’t help to be a little bit disappointed as well, with the result.
“I thought that was a little bit harsh on us, but we also have to take lessons from that.
“OK, we got some plaudits for the way we played, but we didn’t do well enough in both penalty boxes, and if you’re going to go into a results-driven business, you’ve got to win games of football.
“We didn’t keep the ball out at one end and we didn’t score at the other end.
“So that’s not a recipe for getting success. Our aim is to try to do a lot better than that tomorrow night.”
TV & Liveblog Info
Due to a multitude of scheduling clashes, Liverpool’s replay with Shrewsbury will NOT be shown live in the UK.
However, Henry Jackson has you covered on This Is Anfield’s matchday liveblog, keeping you in the know and entertained from 7pm (GMT).