Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp insisted that he has no concerns picking a strong line-up when he can rest players, slamming a reminder about Diogo Jota’s injury last season.
The Reds find themselves in such a situation ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Porto. Following four wins from four in Group B, they cannot be caught by Porto, AC Milan or Atletico Madrid.
As such, Klopp could give some of his star players a rest. In their place, he could hand fringe players – or even Saturday’s Premier League debutant Tyler Morton – minutes instead.
Liverpool were in a similar scenario in last season’s Champions League group stages. They played Midtjylland away on matchday six in December and fielded a mix of experience and youth.
While youngster Leighton Clarkson played in midfield, forward Jota suffered a nasty knee injury which kept him out until February.
Asked about the situation ahead of the clash with Porto, Klopp insisted that the experience with Jota has not changed his approach to such matches.
“It’s really easy to sit there and say ‘Leave him out, leave him out’. If we leave them all out and play with a team which is not a Champions League team… we don’t have enough players for that by the way,” Klopp told his press conference.
“The first question was about how much we respect the integrity of the competition, so it’s so easy to sit in your chair and ask these kinds of questions.
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“We have to line up a team which has a chance to win the football game. The Diogo situation was very unlucky, I hated it.
“I hated it, I made the decision. But would I have done the decision again? Yes, because you need stability. We cannot play football games like, here this line-up, next line-up has no chance to win the game and then bring them all back.
“The players need rhythm. I don’t think it’s fair that you bring up this whole story of a player who got injured. These things happen in football and hopefully nothing happens tomorrow.”
Takumi Minamino is one player who could start up front for Liverpool against Porto. The Japan international has struggled for minutes this season but proved his worth with a goal in a substitute appearance against Arsenal on Saturday.
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“He played the last few games for Japan because he is in a great shape,” Klopp said. “That helps always when you want to start football games for club and country.
“He’s in exceptional shape. We knew that, that’s why I said it before that Taki is pretty much our first option for changing five positions.
“That says a lot, because he can play all these different positions. When he came on [against Arsenal] it was just a wonderful moment.
“Forty-odd seconds on the pitch and scoring a goal, from that moment on you can see his confidence grew and how good a player he is. He will get his minutes, definitely.”