Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has defended his decision to use his under-23 squad against Shrewsbury Town in their FA Cup fourth-round replay and said the Football Association did not consult “sports-responsible people” over dates for the game.
Liverpool drew 2-2 with the third-tier club on Sunday after which Klopp confirmed that no first-team player would feature in the replay because it clashed with the inaugural Premier League mid-season break. The decision has attracted criticism, with Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt calling for Liverpool to be fined.
In a news conference ahead of Liverpool’s league trip to West Ham United on Wednesday, Klopp, who will also miss the replay, defended his position in a response lasting over seven minutes.
“I have to make decisions that aren’t popular based on the situation we are in,” he said. “Because we plan long-term I cannot plan when there is a real decisive period coming up. “If people think I am lazy because I am not there, I cannot change that and I’m not interested. I just feel responsible for my players. If we find a way to play it then nothing will change and we have to change it.”
Klopp confirmed under-23s boss Neil Critchley will take charge of the replay at Anfield.
Critchley took charge of a young Liverpool side in their League Cup defeat by Aston Villa when the first-team was in Qatar for the Club World Cup.
“Could I be here for the game? Of course, I could,” Klopp said. “But that again is a complete misunderstanding of management and coaching. They need their coach and it is Critch.” The FA said every club agreed to this season’s Cup fixture schedule and knew fourth-round replays might be played during their winter breaks.
“I don’t know who was there from which club, but I know the FA said all the clubs agreed,” Klopp said. “No sports-responsible people were there. Not a club, not a manager, not a sporting director and that’s what we need.”
Klopp confirmed Sadio Mane will miss the next three matches after the forward sustained a muscle issue in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.
“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not Southampton. After that he will be back on track,” Klopp added. “He has a small muscle tear which is serious enough. We were lucky with it though it wasn’t too serious.”
Runaway league leaders Liverpool could stretch their advantage over second-placed Manchester City to 19 points with a win at the London Stadium on Wednesday.
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