Premier League • England

Lijnders provides double Liverpool update before final; gives encouragement to squad players

Liverpool coaches Pep Lijnders and Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has provided an update on the fitness of forwards Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota before this weekend’s Carabao Cup final.

The Reds will be looking to add to their trophy cabinet when they come up against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday. They last lifted the trophy in 2011-12 after beating Cardiff City on penalties.

Firmino missed the Premier League victories over Norwich and Leeds due to a muscle problem. Manager Jurgen Klopp has not detailed the exact nature of the issue.

Jota was also kept out of action for those matches after sustaining an ankle injury in the recent Champions League win over Inter Milan.

At Friday’s press conference, Lijnders was asked about the pair. “Bobby, we have to see in the next two days,” Ljinders said (via the Liverpool Echo). “He will not be available. We hope he will be back soon.

“Jota, so far no reaction on the things he did. That’s a good sign. He isn’t ruled out, but it will still be a challenge.”

Young goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher will start at Wembley after playing a big part in Liverpool reaching the final. “Kelleher is a really good example; him reaching the final it shows that there’s an inside path for young goalkeepers at the club,” Lijnders added.

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“A compliment for the goalkeeping department, that is what I like that it’s possible a young keeper can make the final. It’s nice to see.”

The coach was also quizzed about centre-back Joel Matip. The 30-year-old got on the scoresheet during the 6-0 thrashing of Leeds following a marauding run into the opposition box.

“We are always searching for new weapons,” Lijnders said. “It’s not the first time it happened – we call this the classic Joel dribble.

“I really believe that how we bring the ball out from the back improved massively over the years. You want to create the last pass from everywhere, and you want that from everywhere.”

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In the Carabao Cup, Klopp has utilised players who don’t tend to get too many starts in the Premier League. That includes Takumi Minamino, alongside youngsters Tyler Morton and Kaide Gordon.

Lijnders went on to give encouragement to these players, even if they may miss out this weekend.

“We speak a lot with them,” Pep Lijnders continued. “They know they are part of our squad. What is important is that they travel with us.

“If you’re part of Liverpool Football Club, you don’t get a worse feeling if you are selected or not. We believe in this inside pathway of giving chances and that’s why I’m extra proud we reached the final. This competition was all about the journey and we made the final.”

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Skipper Jordan Henderson was also asked about Firmino and Jota. “They’re two big players. It looks like Bobby is struggling. If Jota can play, that would be a big bonus for us,” the midfielder said.

Looking ahead to the final, Henderson added: “It’s a big moment in the season to get a trophy so early on can give a squad a big boost. A cup final, we want to win, so we’ll make sure we do our best to bring it home.”

Henderson is the only player left from the Liverpool squad which won the 2012 League Cup. “I have achieved that with the players that I’ve played with and everyone involved at the club,” he said about the club’s journey since then. “It has been a rollercoaster ride.

“The focus is always the same: to improve every day and to give my all for the football club. Whether you lose or win, that will never change for me.”

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