Liverpool will face a battle to maintain their hold at the top of the Premier League table as they begin to enter a crazy period of festive fixtures.
And that battle has been made all the more difficult with the announcement that their Carabao Cup match at Aston Villa will go ahead of Tuesday December 17, as originally scheduled.
This means the Reds will be forced to play two squads in the space of 24 hours in two different continents as the quarter-final tie at Villa Park comes less than 24 hours before their Club World Cup semi-final in Qatar.
Jurgen Klopp threatened to boycott the Carabao Cup quarter-finals over their insane fixture pile-up after watching a young Reds side beat Arsenal on penalties in a ten-goal thriller that had everything.
The manager was forced to field a young and inexperienced team for Wednesday’s clash at Anfield, with four teenagers named in the starting XI – their youngest in any competition since January 2017, with an average age of 23 years and 122 days.
And it appears the likes of 16-year-old Harvey Elliott, 17-year-old Sepp van den Berg, 18-year-olds Neco Williams and Curtis Jones and 19-year-old Rhian Brewster may be seeing more game time in the coming months as Liverpool prepare for their manic fixture pile-up.
The Reds will play 14 matches in less than two months – working out at a game EVERY THREE OR FOUR DAYS for seven weeks straight.
The Carabao Cup quarter-finals will be played the week commencing 16 December.
Carabao Cup quarter-final draw: Manchester United vs Colchester, Oxford land Man City and Aston Villa to host Liverpool
But Klopp is taking a squad on a 7,000-mile round trip to Qatar to play in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup on 18 December.
Liverpool were also due to play West Ham on December 21 in the Premier League, but that game has been postponed and is yet to be rearranged.
It all means they currently have six midweek fixtures in a row pencilled in between November 27 and January 2, while also playing over seven consecutive weekends.
After the win over Arsenal, Klopp insisted Liverpool would not be forced to play two different squads.
He said: “If we did play while in Qatar it would be two different teams but we cannot leave any players at home for the Carabao Cup.
“We have two games there [in Qatar] in a very busy period. It is not that we can go there with 11 players and say these 11 guys play two games in Qatar and the other guys play back home against Aston Villa.
“It doesn’t work like that. We will make a decision, but not yet.”
However, Liverpool have backed down and will be forced to play both matches within 24 hours of each other with two different squads and below you can see their jam-packed schedule during the festive period.
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Liverpool's fixture pile-up
November 23: Crystal Palace (A – Premier League)
November 27: Napoli (H – Champions League)
November 30: Brighton (H – Premier League)
December 4: Everton (H – Premier League)
December 7: Bournemouth (A – Premier League)
December 10: RB Salzburg (A – Champions League)
December 14: Watford (H – Premier League)
December 17: Aston Villa (A – Carabao Cup)
December 18: Club World Cup semi-final
December 21: Club World Cup third place play-off/final
December 26: Leicester (A – Premier League)
December 29: Wolves (H – Premier League)
January 2: Sheffield United (H – Premier League)
January 3-6: FA Cup Third Round
It’s a total nightmare for the Merseyside club, but Klopp at least has a fairly big squad to call upon to keep his key XI well rested.
The Reds are currently six points clear at the top of the Premier League table and fans are desperate to end their long wait for the title.
A bonus for Klopp is the supporters won’t need to be appeased this season by bringing home a cup, having been crowned six-time European Champions last term, so the coach could just save his main starting XI for the league fixtures and fill out his teams in the Champions League and Club World Cup with squad players.
And the Liverpool boss insisted following the Arsenal clash that he has faith in all of his players to deliver.
When asked about his young selection and accusations he was not taking the cup seriously, Klopp told Sky Sports after the game: “It’s not true.
“We cannot do it differently, we had to make a lot of changes, but we made them because we trust the boys. How they played tonight, I loved it, really.
“In the end, it was about encouragement to get them to keep going. That was the job to do and they did, with the team they had tonight having 60, 65 per cent possession is crazy.
“The mistakes we made was because we were too open, but that’s how it is. We want to be fluent, we are not used to playing with each other and that can happen.
“What I wished for the boys that they can have a game to remember, and that’s what happened.”