Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has no qualms about his decision to pick Caoimhin Kelleher for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
The day after his side booked their meeting with Chelsea at Wembley, Klopp made the unusual step of publicly announcing the Republic of Ireland international would start in the final.
Kelleher has played in every domestic cup game this season, except the semi-final first leg at home to Arsenal when first-choice Alisson Becker was in need of match practice after a Covid-enforced absence.
But Klopp reverted to his original selection policy for the second leg away from home and feels he has to give 23-year-old Kelleher games to keep him at the club.
“Caoimh is an exceptional goalkeeper and we want to keep him here and for that, he needs games,” said Klopp.
“These games are his competition, and there’s no chance of him not playing.
“It’s just a thing we have to do because of the quality Caoimh has. We want to keep him as long as somehow possible, knowing that, from our point of view, the best goalkeeper in the world (Alisson) is our number one.
“As always, if it works out, then it’s all about Caoimh. If it doesn’t work out, then it’s all about me. It’s as easy as that, and I take it.”
Kelleher is unbeaten in seven matches this season, winning six, and his only defeat in 16 senior appearances was at Aston Villa in December 2019 when the first-team squad were in Qatar winning the Club World Cup.
He will be looking to win a trophy by helping extend Liverpool’s winning run to 10 matches after the 6-0 drubbing of Leeds on Wednesday, a win which moved them three points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
They have conceded just four goals in 11 games since drawing 2-2 with Chelsea in the league at Stamford Bridge in early January.
That sequence includes seven clean sheets and manager Jurgen Klopp admits for all their attacking prowess, it is in defence where matches are won.
“As much as I love the goals we scored (against Leeds), I loved the clean sheet because everything we do is based on a top-organised, defensive performance,” he said.
“Without that we are just a good football team, but with that we can be a successful football team.
“I like the determination we showed again for defending, the commitment of the boys.”
Mohamed Salah scored two penalties, taking his tally for the season to 27, while a late double from Sadio Mane made it eight consecutive campaigns in which he has scored at least 10 league goals.
Even without the injured Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino, who are in a race against time to be fit for Wembley, Liverpool had far too much firepower for Leeds.
In Salah, Jota and Mane, Klopp has the Premier League’s three leading scorers this season, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Salah and Andy Robertson are the trio topping the assists chart.
“We had to be fully concentrated and we were and in the end, it was a wonderful night,” said Klopp.
“When you have a penalty, you want the right person on the spot to put it away – that’s what Mo did. On top of that, he played a really good game.
“Sadio’s game was one of his best, the way he interpreted the role – playing in the centre – and how he got away from opponents and opened gaps.”