Even though the Reds played a pair of exhibition matches over the long World Cup break, Thursday, December 22nd makes Liverpool's return to competitive play. They are set to face Manchester City in the 4th round of the Carabao Cup. Assistant Manager Pep Lijnders, who typically mananges Caraboa Cup matches in place of Jürgen Klopp, met with the media Wednesday to discuss the tie, the club's mentality after the break and a brief outlook to the second half of the season.
A Familiar Foe
Many times in Carabao Cup, an EPL side will be matched with a club from a lower tier of English football. That is certainly not the case with this tie as Liverpool and Manchester City are old rivals and traditional EPL powers. In fact, the two clubs have met as recently as October 16th this year with the Reds coming away with a big 1-0 win at Anfield.
“I think it's never a boring game against them,” Lijnders said. “It was never a boring game, both teams will put on a great show, that's for sure. We know [that] against them we need to be 100 percent concentrated on the things we have to do to make it a top show.”.
Finding A Balance
It will be interesting to see which 11 players Lijnders sends to the pitch as starters. On the one hand, Liverpool want to expose young talent to the rigors of competition vs. an EPL club while still pushing for a win against a rival.
“First, age is just a number for us, that's really important to understand,” Lijnders said. “We don't look to experience in that way, let me say it like this, and if there is one thing this World Cup proved as well it is that you need your whole squad. The teams who became successful needed the whole squad. To put this in context, when we play League Cup it's always in a very busy schedule. We play the Champions League and Premier League and we know we have to be top to win these games in these competitions. We cannot rest players, then the League Cup comes in a timeframe where we play every three days and the boys have to be at the top to win games so it's a perfect moment to use the full squad.”
The Second Half Starts Now
Even though this match will not count in the EPL standings, it will go a long way toward setting the tone for the second half of the season. A win would give Reds supporters hope that the World Cup break is just what the team needs to erase memories of a tough first half while a loss would be a definite lump of coal in Liverpool's stocking.
“We see it just as a new start, how we should see it,” Lijnders said. “The boys are hungry, they are passionate, and they want to show this on the pitch. You see that in each session and that's what we have to do. We know that we have to be committed to our way. We know against City there will be moments where you have to be really together, where it will not be easy. All of our boys have these experiences, so that is really good.”
LFC Globe Verdict
Now that the Word Cub is over, Liverpool supporters everywhere can turn our attention back to our beloved Reds. The schedule makers have given us an early Christmas present with a Carabao Cup fixture against City. This is a perfect situation for both clubs because it allows them to showcase young talent and mix in veterans later in the match who have heavy legs from the World Cup.
This match feels more important than a typical Carabao Cup tie as the team needs momentum heading into the second half of the EPL season as they attempt to climb the table. I think they will gain that momentum with a 2-1 victory.
Where To Watch
Kickoff from Etihad Stadium is set for 20:00 GMT and can be seen on Sky Sports. American audiences can stream the action on ESPN + and those in Canada can watch it on DAZN.