LIVERPOOL’S Under-23s boss Neil Critchley is expected to be in dugout for the Reds’ Carabao Cup clash with Aston Villa.
The Anfield club must travel to Villa Park for the quarter-final on December 17, just 24 hours before they have their Club World Cup opener… in Qatar.
According to The Times, first-team boss Jurgen Klopp will travel out to the Middle East with his senior squad on Sunday 15.
The German will be desperate to add another trophy to his collection and be the first Liverpool manager to win the global tournament made up of the continental champions.
Their semi-final is scheduled for December 18 with the final or third-fourth play-off three days later.
And as Klopp finalises his preparations for the final-four match at the newly-built Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, it will be down to development team gaffer Critchley to oversee the cup tie.
He is on course to field a very young squad made up largely of U23s players, with the slim possibility of a couple of first-team names left behind by Klopp, who does not have to take a full 23-man squad to Qatar.
Rhian Brewster, Harvey Elliott, Curtis Jones, Caoimhin Kelleher, Ki-Jana Hoever, Pedro Chirivella, Neco Williams and Sepp van den Berg have all featured in the Carabao Cup already this season in the wins over MK Dons and Arsenal.
And many of those, plus a few more of Critchley’s youth stars, are set to play at Villa Park, with Dean Smith surely going to field a strong side with a glorious chance of reaching the semis.
Liverpool are expected to treat the Villa game as a standard senior away match by travelling on the regular first-team coach and staying in the same hotel Klopp & Co would.
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There was reportedly talk that Klopp’s assistant manager, Pepijn Lijnders, could take charge and then fly out to Qatar with the likes of Brewster and Elliot but this is seemingly off the cards.
Liverpool agreed to play two matches within 24 hours with two separate squads to help prevent further fixture congestion later on in the season.
In the four-and-a-half weeks between December 10 and the first weekend of January, the Reds will play nine matches in five different competitions: the Champions League, Premier League, Carabao Cup, Club World Cup and FA Cup.