Football

Liverpool’s youngsters shine in Carabao Cup win over MK Dons

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made wholesale changes to his squad on Wednesday night to face MK Dons in the Carabao Cup third round as Liverpool won 2-0.

Klopp left the eleven players that started Sunday’s 2-1 Premier League win over Chelsea on Merseyside and deployed a number of youngsters for the cup tie.

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Klopp started five players 20-years old or younger for the Carabao Cup match with all five starring in the team’s win. The manager gave senior debuts to goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Harvey Elliott, and Rhian Brewster.

Meanwhile, midfielder Curtis Jones got a second career start along with Ki-Jana Hoever. The duo played previously in the FA Cup third round last season and both put in a far better performance than their previous appearances.

The right balance

Klopp got the balance between youth and veterans correct on the night. James Milner started at left-back and was the perfect on-field coach for the youngsters. He was regularly helping the Reds’ inexperienced players throughout the 90 minutes. Milner’s ability and willingness to step in as a left-back also showed his desire to play whenever called upon.

Milner scored the first goal of the match courtesy of a mistake from MK Dons’ goalkeeper Stuart Moore. The Englishman then tallied an assist for Hoever’s thumping header. Milner is in the last season of his contract and could be offered the chance to stay another year at Anfield as a back-up left-back.

The Future

Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones received the man of the match award for his performance against MK Dons. He had a steady night and could get more time for the Reds as the season wears on. Jones has been in the under-23 team, but with a strong performance, he could be the next academy player to get into the senior team regularly.

Jones will turn 19-years old in January. If Liverpool allow Adam Lallana to leave on a free next summer, which right now there is little reason to keep him at Anfield, Jones could be his natural replacement.

While Jones got the man of the match award, Harvey Elliott may have deserved the honour more. Elliott was all over the pitch and hit the woodwork twice. The 16-year-old looked very comfortable on the pitch and looks to be learning well from the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Kelleher made several excellent saves in goal on his debut. The Irishman kept the Reds in the lead with his saves and could step up to be Alisson Becker’s back-up next season.

The right now

Liverpool’s success came despite making wholesale changes from their squad from the weekend prior. The Reds’ depth showed against MK Dons and it is that depth that is needed for the remainder of the season. Liverpool must still compete in five competitions this term.

Klopp’s team will see the XI players that played against Chelsea back in the side at the weekend when they visit Sheffield United. Could the likes of Jones or Elliott make the bench after their strong Carabao Cup performances? Perhaps they could.