Liverpool’s Under-23 head coach Neil Critchley will be in the dugout for the Reds’ EFL Cup clash with Aston Villa while manager Jurgen Klopp prepares for the Club World Cup opener in Qatar a day later, according to a report.
Liverpool face the two fixtures back-to-back on December 17 and 18, respectively, with the club agreeing to the situation to avoid further disruption to their already hectic schedule, which sees them competing in five competitions over the next six weeks.
The Reds have never won the Club World Cup – losing in the final on their last attempt in 2005 – and according to The Times, Klopp has decided that the allure of becoming the first Liverpool manager to do has persuaded him to fly out to the Middle East on December 15.
As for the squad he will take with him, it is claimed that despite the likes of Adam Lallana, Joe Gomez and James Milner being heavily involved in the EFL Cup so far this season, the trio will be boarding the flight to Qatar along with the rest of the first team.
Liverpool do not have to take a full roster of 23 players to the Middle East and the report says that they may take fewer to give the squad back in the UK some support.
The Times continues by saying that Harvey Elliott, 16, and Sepp van den Berg, 17, will be part of a youthful squad to face Villa, with a decision to send Elliott and Rhian Brewster, 19, to Qatar after the match possible but unlikely.
With Critchley set to be at the helm at Villa Park, the newspaper adds that the Under-23 boss has been spending more time at Melwood alongside academy director Alex Inglethorpe as they look to prepare to step in in Klopp’s absence.
It is also reported that despite discussions being held to keep Klopp’s assistant Pepijn Lijnders in the UK, he too will board the flight to Qatar, with Liverpool entering at the semi-final stage on December 18 before playing either the final or a third-place play-off on December 21.