Jürgen Klopp has confirmed that Rhian Brewster will be in the Liverpool squad for the FA Cup third-round tie against Everton, even though the club are expecting the 19-year-old to be the subject of loan bids during the present window.
The Liverpool manager was non-committal about whether Brewster would start, as he was over the possibility of Takumi Minamino and Adrián appearing at Anfield, though he was at pains to stress that the mere fact of the next game being a Merseyside derby would not discourage him from resting players if necessary.
Klopp normally rotates to some extent when the FA Cup comes along, one reason why he has never been beyond the fourth round in four years in England, and indicated after the last league win against Sheffield United that he might be doing the same against Everton, only to be met with suggestions he was disrespecting the competition. “Actually that is not true,” he said. “I do not intend to disrespect the competition but my first job as manager is to respect my players. If we have reached a stage in the season where I think a few changes might be sensible, I cannot let the fact that we are playing Everton affect my judgment.
“I have to keep emotion out of this, even if it is a derby. It is my job to make a decision because of the situation, not because of the name of the opponent. This is not the last game of the season. I have to select a team capable of doing the physical stuff in a derby because Everton are clearly on fire at the moment.”
That was not the case in the league a month ago, when a 5-2 defeat at Anfield prompted Marco Silva’s sacking, though the upturn in Everton’s outlook since then is because of a heady few weeks that began with Duncan Ferguson and ended with Carlo Ancelotti. Klopp may have been surprised to see such a distinguished Champions League rival take the Goodison job, but says there is nothing unexpected about Everton showing a sudden improvement.
“Carlo is one of the smartest people I ever met, and he wouldn’t have taken the Everton job if he didn’t believe in the squad,” Klopp said. “He is someone with the ability to lift a group and he will also bring good organisation to Everton, improve the atmosphere around the club and use the players he has in their best positions. I am sure Carlo and Everton will prove a proper combination over the course of a season.”
Klopp met Ancelotti most recently in his incarnation as manager of Napoli, and is probably already sick of hearing that he is the only manager to record a victory over Liverpool this season. Strictly speaking Aston Villa’s Dean Smith should also be on that list, though Liverpool sent out a team of reserves in the Carabao Cup and Klopp was miles away in Doha. “We lost that game in Napoli because of a penalty that wasn’t a penalty,” the Liverpool manager said. “These things can happen in football, it wasn’t as if they outplayed us.”