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Klopp’s kids: Meet Liverpool’s Champions League hopefuls Cain, Clarkson & Koumetio

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With qualification already secured, Jurgen Klopp is set to ring the changes for the Reds’ final Group D game, against Midtjylland on Wednesday

After the League Cup and the FA Cup last season, Liverpool’s kids are set for a crack at the Champions League.

With qualification for the knockout stage already confirmed, it will be a much-changed Reds side which lines up for Wednesday’s final Group D fixture away to Danish champions FC Midtjylland.

“I didn’t make a decision yet,” insisted Jurgen Klopp when asked about his line-up at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference, but he is sure to take a rare opportunity to safely rest some, if not all, of his star names.

“It is the first time we don’t have to get a result in the last match of the group stage,” he added. “We have to consider the general situation, that’s clear, but we have to consider we are Liverpool and we want to win the game.

“Our Champions League squad was already very young. We have had four, five, six players involved in the squad so far and yes, they will travel.

“And then we will make decisions.”

So, who could feature against Midtjylland? Goal takes a closer look below…

Rhys Williams

OK, so this is a name we have become familiar with in the last couple of months. The 19-year-old centre-back has already featured seven times for the Reds this season, having spent last term on loan with Kidderminster in English football’s sixth tier.

He has appeared four times in the Champions League, starting both games against Atalanta last month, and is almost certain to start on Wednesday, with Klopp keen to protect Joel Matip and Fabinho, and with Nat Phillips ineligible for European football until at least January.

Tall, vocal and assured in possession, Williams has impressed everyone – Klopp included – with his development this season.

“What Rhys did in the Champions League is exceptional,” Klopp said on Tuesday. Against Midtjylland, he should get another chance to shine.

Billy Koumetio

Williams could well have another teenager alongside him, with French youth international Koumetio part of the Reds’ travelling party.

The towering, left-sided centre-back, who turned 18 last month, has been on the bench three times for the senior side, and had Klopp and his staff purring with his performances during the pre-season training camp in Austria back in August.

Billy Koumetio Liverpool GFX

Christened ‘Billy the Kid’ by Klopp, Koumetio played 45 minutes for the U18s against Manchester United on Saturday, and has featured for the U21s in the EFL Trophy against senior opposition this season.

With Sepp van den Berg nursing an abductor issue which should rule the young Dutchman out of the game, Koumetio may well get the chance to make his first-team debut.

Jake Cain

An unused substitute in each of Liverpool’s five Champions League games so far this season, 19-year-old midfielder Cain is likely to start this time around.

Wigan-born, he has been at Liverpool since the age of nine and signed his first professional contract with the club in 2019. He was part of the FA Youth Cup-winning squad under Barry Lewtas, and has continued to develop well with the U23s, as well as being a regular part of Klopp’s first-team training group, first at Melwood and now at Kirkby.

Jake Cain Liverpool GFX

Left-footed, and blessed with an eye for goal and an impressive engine, watch out for Cain’s high-pressing and set-piece prowess. He has already made one first-team appearance, in the FA Cup against Shrewsbury last season, and certainly didn’t look out of place in doing so.

Leighton Clarkson

Cain’s best mate and the other half of an impressive midfield double-act at youth level, the diminutive Clarkson is another who should get the chance to impress in Denmark.

Technically excellent, with a good range of passing, the 19-year-old from Blackburn made his Reds debut in the League Cup quarter-final at Aston Villa a year ago, and started against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup fourth-round replay at Anfield in February.

Leighton Clarkson Liverpool GFX

He started this season well with the U23s, before a red card for a wild tackle against Manchester United disturbed his campaign. Though small in stature, he is certainly not afraid to put himself about in the midfield battle. Coaches love him for it.

And the rest…

Aside from the youngsters – and we haven’t even mentioned Caoimhin Kelleher, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones, by the way – this game could provide an opportunity for a few fringe senior players to get some much-needed minutes.

Kostas Tsimikas, for example, should start at left-back, while both Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi are likely to feature in attack.

Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita made their return from injury against Wolves on Sunday, and it would no surprise at all if both played 45 or 60 minutes here, in anticipation of a hectic festive period in the Premier League.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, meanwhile, trained with Klopp’s squad at Kirkby on Tuesday, but the game will come too soon for the midfielder. James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker will also miss out. 

Read more at www.goal.com

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