Liverpool take on MK Dons in the third round of the Carabao Cup tonight (7.45pm) and Jurgen Klopp will use the game as an opportunity to rotate his squad – though has a few injuries to deal with.
The Merseyside club sit top of the Premier League table with a perfect record of six wins from six games, boasting a five-point lead over title rivals Manchester City.
But Klopp turns his attention to England’s first domestic cup competition of the campaign this evening with Liverpool returning to the tournament they have won more than any other club in the country.
The eight-time League Cup winners take on League One outfit MK Dons at Stadium MK, seeking to avoid a third successive third-round knockout having been beaten by Leicester and Chelsea at this same stage in the past two seasons.
With this competition viewed as the lesser of the two English cups, the Liverpool manager will use this evening’s tie to offer minutes to players on the fringes of his squad and may even make 11 changes from the team that beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last Sunday.
Assistant manager Pep Lijnders confirmed yesterday: “Of course, we want to use our squad. From the outside we say ‘squad’, from the inside we say ‘team’, so it’s a chance for a few players who didn’t play [in] the last weeks 90 minutes who can start the game.”
Klopp has several first-team players out injured, with Alisson Becker, Sadio Mane, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi all sidelined and Nathaniel Clyne a long-term absentee.
Both Shaqiri and Origi would likely have featured in Milton Keynes, though are absent with a calf problem and an ankle knock respectively.
Alisson is still recovering from a calf injury of his own, which he sustained in the opening weekend win over Norwich in mid-August, and remains out. Mane has a minor knock from the win against Chelsea just three days ago, but would likely have been rested even if fully fit.
With Alisson still recovering, Klopp won’t want to risk Adrian and so highly-rated academy keeper Caoimhin Kelleher should be handed his debut with veteran Andy Lonergan likely to make the bench.
Ahead of the Irishman, talented Dutch teenager Ki-Jana Hoever should start at right-back with Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren coming into central defence. Sepp van den Berg is said to have a knock.
At left-back, Yasser Larouci is believed to be struggling with injury while Adam Lewis only returned from a fitness issue of his own last weekend. That should see central midfielder James Milner asked to deputise there.
Naby Keita is fit again from a hip strain and should make his first appearance since the Community Shield. He could be joined by Adam Lallana, taking up the No 6 role he operated in in pre-season, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
With Mane, Shaqiri and Origi injured and Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino set for a night off, Klopp will hand Rhian Brewster a long-awaited first-team bow up top.
The England youth international is expected to be joined in the front three by Liverpool-born attacker Curtis Jones and summer signing Harvey Elliott, who impressed in pre-season.
Liverpool and MK Dons – who sit 15th in League One – have never met gone head-to-head before with the Buckinghamshire outfit, who were only founded in 2004.
Liverpool predicted line-up vs MK Dons
4-3-3: Kelleher; Hoever, Gomez, Lovren, Milner; Lallana, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Jones, Brewster, Elliott.