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10 key things to know ahead of Preston vs. Liverpool

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Liverpool’s League Cup adventure resumes on Wednesday night as they head to Preston North End in the fourth round, with a host of changes expected for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.

We’ve already overcome Norwich City this season in the competition, winning 3-0 on the road after goals from Divock Origi and Taki Minamino brace, while the Lilywhites beat Mansfield, Morecombe and Cheltenham Town to reach this stage.

Here are 10 things to know ahead of the match.

 

1. Preston’s novice boss

Frankie McAvoy has been at the club for over four years, but was only appointed head coach in the summer.

This is his first senior role as a manager, having been coach and assistant for Alex Neil at each of Hamilton, Norwich and then Preston.

So far it’s not going formidably well, with three victories 14 in the Championship, though he did enjoy a successful stint as interim boss near the end of last season, with five victories in eight. Most recently they beat Coventry in the league last week, but suffered defeat to Blackpool at the weekend.

The match will then mark his biggest test yet as he goes up against Jurgen Klopp, albeit with an altered line-up – a learning curve and an opportunity to impress for the Deepdale boss.

 

2. A tale of two defenders

Ben Davies, Preston North End ( Dave Howarth/EMPICS Sport)

One Preston defender left them last January to head to Liverpool, while another made the reverse journey.

It hasn’t gone to plan for Ben Davies, who has never made a first-team appearance for the Reds and is back out on loan this season, but Sepp van den Berg is faring well.

He impressed enough in his half-campaign loan for the Championship club to want him back for 21/22 and he’s a regular this season, often playing at full-back or wing-back rather than the central role we’re used to seeing him in while wearing red.

Sepp even has a couple of goals to his name this season!

 

3. Who’s out for Liverpool?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 24, 2021: Liverpool's James Milner applauds the supporters as he is substituted during the FA Premier League match between Manchester United FC and Liverpool FC at Old Trafford. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Six players will definitely miss out for Klopp’s team, though several of them would not have been expected to play this game in any case, in fairness.

Thiago is “progressing” according to Pepijn Lijnders and we might well see him back in action soon, but certainly not in this fixture.

Fabinho is sidelined after an injury against Atletico, while James Milner and Naby Keita suffered weekend injuries against Man United – they are also out.

Kaide Gordon is also not available, only just back in light training after an injury sustained in a Uefa Youth League game, while Harvey Elliott is of course a long-term absentee.

Finally, sub goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher would have started this match and might well do so if he recovers, but he missed the weekend win over United through illness and remains a doubt.

Predicted Liverpool XI: Adrian; Williams, Matip, Gomez, Tsimikas; Morton, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones; Mane, Minamino, Origi

 

4. How will Preston line up?

2F00KGH Deepdale Stadium, Preston, Lancashire, UK. 6th Mar, 2021. English Football League Championship Football, Preston North End versus Bournemouth; Sepp van den Berg of Preston North End Credit: Action Plus Sports/Alamy Live News

This is the first real test for them in this competition, so it will be intriguing to see whether they stick with a strong side while they struggle in the league, or give others an opportunity to stake their case.

There should likely be one systemic change too, as Preston have gone with two up top all season – expect an extra body in a supporting role from midfield instead, giving them a fairly fluid 3-4-3 which can be bulked up in midfield to leave a sole striker.

Sepp van den Berg does have permission to feature in the game against his parent club, but Alan Browne is suspended and they have injuries to several players including Izzy Brown, Connor Wickham and Ched Evans.

Predicted Preston XI: Rudd; Storey, Bauer, Hughes; Van den Berg, Whiteman, Ledson, Earl; Potts, Johnson; Jakobsen

 

5. Not a regular opponent!

PRESTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, July 19, 2014: Liverpool's Emre Can walks out for his first game against Preston North End during a preseason friendly match at Deepdale Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Precisely one competitive game has taken place between the two clubs in the last 60 years!

That was an FA Cup encounter in 2009 under Rafa Benitez, Riera and Torres notching in a 2-0 win. Diego Cavalieri, Emi Insua and Robbie Keane were among the Reds playing that day!

More recently, two friendlies took place in 2013 and 2014, Brendan Rodgers overseeing victories in each game.

Transfers between the two sides have been similarly scarce; other than the aforementioned Davies deal, the last permanent transfer from Anfield to Deepdale was Neil Mellor in 2006 – that’s the only other move between the clubs in the Premier League era.

 

6. Lijnders leads the way

As is now customary, Klopp’s assistant took the press conference for the League Cup encounter and made the point that it didn’t matter that the Reds were facing a lower-league side – we’ll simply do what we do and go out to win it, one game at a time, regardless of location, competition or opposition.

“We don’t prepare differently if we’re away to Preston or away to Man United.

“If the day before the game the session is so intense and so difficult, we are confident to attack the next game.

“That’s what we want, going game by game, session by session, focusing on the small things. We want to show the fans our hunger, our desire, our way. That’s the only way to be consistent in the season.”

One game at a time, one win at a time: the mantra of our championship season. Same again!

 

7. Tyler Morton, step right up

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's Tyler Morton during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. Liverpool won 3-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Rotation for the cup means there was always likely to be a second string fielded here, but midfield injuries makes this an even bigger opportunity for some.

Tyler Morton can be expected to start after not featuring in the U23s’ draw with Blackburn on Monday, following on from his excellent second-half showing against Norwich in the last round.

He’ll anchor the centre of the park, likely with Curtis Jones and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of him. With so many sidelined, this is a real opportunity for the youngster to show the coaches he is ready to be called upon as needed, with the Reds returning to Anfield for a league match with Brighton at the weekend.

A ‘nice’ opponent, a ball-playing team, a home environment…if he impresses here, he could easily be in the squad for that match and get his first taste of Premier League action.

 

8. Did you know?

NORWICH, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 21, 2021: Liverpool's Takumi Minamino celebrates after scoring the first goal during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match between Norwich City FC and Liverpool FC at Carrow Road. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Mo Salah is averaging a goal every 70 minutes of play this season after a formidable start to the campaign – but that’s nothing compared to Takumi Minamino!

His two goals against Norwich, and the fact he’s not yet played in the Premier League this season, mean he has a goal every 56.5 minutes on the pitch!

Minamino’s only other appearance this season has been as a sub against Porto in Europe – he’s had no game time for the club since late September.

It will have been tough waiting, but his opportunity will come here against Preston. If he keeps up that strike rate, we’ll be looking good to make the fifth round.

 

9. Coote needs a perfect performance

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 8, 2020: Referee David Coote during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Crystal Palace FC at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s fair to say David Coote has not been an official who is particularly popular among Liverpool fans…or coaches. Or players.

Against Burnley he caused controversy as referee by not giving several decisions including what looked a fairly clear-cut penalty to the Reds, but his most controversial moment came as the VAR.

That was his role in last season’s Merseyside derby when he overlooked suggesting any kind of punishment for Jordan Pickford after his horrific lunge on Virgil van Dijk which left his season over.

Improve.

 

10. On the box

PORTO, PORTUGAL - Tuesday, September 28, 2021: A television camera monitor during the UEFA Champions League Group B Matchday 2 game between FC Porto and Liverpool FC at the Estádio do Dragão. Liverpool won 5-1. General (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As usual, the Reds will be live on TV for this game: it’s scheduled for broadcast on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Football and Ultra HD – or via your Sky Go app.

Kickoff is at 7.45pm (BST).

Our matchday live blog is available from 7pm, with Joanna Durkan bringing the insightful, light-hearted and thoroughly biased in-match views.

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