Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will not allow the emotion of a Merseyside derby cloud his judgement on team selection despite believing Everton are “on fire”.
The Toffees have not won at Anfield since 1999 but Sunday’s third-round tie represents their best chance in some considerable time as many of Klopp’s battle-weary players are struggling with fatigue.
Many have featured in most of the club’s 32 matches this season – including trips to Istanbul to win the European Super Cup and Qatar to lift the Club World Cup – and are in need of a rest.
It is that factor – and not the fact their near-neighbours are visiting – which will influence the German’s thinking for the match.
“Can I force anyone into that game saying ‘Whatever happens, I don’t care’?” he said.
“That would not be sensible and I have to be. In the moment when I start getting emotional – and it is not during the game – then all of us at Liverpool have a problem.
“I am usually not emotional, I try to make decisions because of situations and not because of the opponent.
“We respect them and we respect the competition, respect what the people want us to achieve – that’s a very important part of it – but I cannot do things because of the name of the opponent.
“People have told me already a couple of times I wouldn’t respect the cup competitions but that is not true.
“But my first job is to respect the players, my absolutely number one job. I see them every day, every second, I see them all the time and I have to make a decision is it allowed to bring them again or not?”
Liverpool beat Everton 5-2 in the league at Anfield a month ago but that was a different prospect as it was the final game of Marco Silva’s reign.
Since then they have been unbeaten in five of their seven matches under caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson and now permanent manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Naby Keita will undergo a scan today on the groin injury he sustained on Thursday night.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 3, 2020
The Champions League-winning Italian’s arrival has added an extra dimension – he is the only man to beat Klopp’s senior side this season in the Champions League with Napoli – and his Liverpool counterpart is aware of that.
“We will try to bring in a team who is capable of doing the physical stuff in that game,” Klopp added.
“I heard a little bit of what Carlo said this morning (in his press conference) and they are obviously on fire and we have to make sure we are ready for that.
“We need the crowd because that’s the only advantage we have: it is just two teams who play each other, two teams from the same city.”
Liverpool are awaiting the results of a scan on Naby Keita’s groin injury sustained in the warm-up before Thursday’s 2-0 win over Sheffield United but the Guinea midfielder has already been ruled out of the game.
He is the seventh senior player now unavailable to Klopp with Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip, Nathaniel Clyne, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xherdan Shaqiri and Fabinho all working their way back to fitness.