Liverpool to use split squads and play two games in less than 24 hours
Club to play Carabao Cup and Club World Cup ties on successive days in December
Liverpool players celebrate the penalty shootout victory over Arsenal in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup at Anfield. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Liverpool will play two cup competitions on two continents in less than 24 hours next month after the English Football League (EFL) agreed to their request to stage the Carabao Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa as originally scheduled.
Jürgen Klopp had threatened to withdraw Liverpool from the Carabao Cup over a potential fixture clash with the Club World Cup and dismissed the idea of playing different teams in the competitions only on Friday.
However, Liverpool have since requested that the game at Villa Park take place as planned on Tuesday December 17th – the day before their first game of the Club World Cup in Qatar.
The EFL announced on Tuesday it had agreed to the proposal to avoid potential disruption to the semi-final stages, the FA Cup and future Premier League fixtures.
Liverpool have been in talks with the EFL over the potential clash for several months. The European champions have given a commitment to the EFL to field a team in the quarter-final “that is largely consistent with those that have participated in earlier rounds of this season’s competition” and meets the competition’s selection requirements. Regulation 6.5 states: “Each club shall play its full available strength in and during all cup competition matches, unless some satisfactory reason is given.”
Klopp handed five youngsters their home debuts in the penalty shootout victory over Arsenal in the fourth round, including Irish goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher, but also started senior players who would be expected to feature in Qatar – James Milner, Divock Origi, Joe Gomez, Naby Keïta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.
Liverpool could field a similar side at Villa and fly first-team regulars to Qatar afterwards for their second game of the Club World Cup on December 21st. No final decisions have been made on the make-up of Klopp’s squads or on whether the manager will oversee both matches, although that is unlikely.
The EFL’s football services director, Dave Cookson, said: “The EFL has long acknowledged that this competition provides those clubs with large resources with the opportunity to rotate their squads knowing that teams who wish to be successful have to be prepared to play a large amount of matches over the course of the season.
“Therefore, in these exceptional circumstances the decision was taken having received clear assurances from the club that there will be a level of consistency in team selection, a feature which is key to ensuring integrity is maintained. We recognise the challenges Liverpool face in this matter and appreciate the efforts made to find a practical solution.”
Liverpool said in a statement : “The club would like to take this opportunity to underline that, while this is not an ideal scenario, it is an outcome which was arrived at with the best interests of the competition, our fellow clubs and ourselves as the sole motivating factor.
“We would like to thank the EFL for their efforts to accommodate us and we can confirm alternative dates were discussed but, ultimately, none were considered suitable without compromising the scheduling of the competition itself or placing an undue strain on our playing staff.”
Klopp had ruled out the possibility of playing on the 17th and 18th of December only four days ago on the basis that he needed a full squad in Qatar. He said on Friday: “It’s not that we can go there with 11 players and say: ‘These 11 guys play the two games in Qatar and the other guys play at home in England against Aston Villa’.” – Guardian