Jurgen Klopp has paid the ultimate tribute to the young players who have kept Liverpool ’s trophy dreams alive.
“Without them, we would have been lost. They are the biggest reason for this – they really are ready for this,” the Reds boss said, as he prepares to thank his talented kids by selecting possibly the youngest team to ever represent the club in the Champions League.
The German coach has been plagued by an injury crisis this season that has seen him lose 15 different players through injury and Covid-19 related absence.
But his side still stand level on points with Spurs at the top of the Premier League, have already qualified for the Champions League knock out…and could record their highest-ever group stage points tally with victory at Midtjylland.
That is down to the likes of teenagers Curtis Jones, Neco Williams and Rhys Williams, along with inexperienced youngsters such as Caoimhin Kelleher and Nat Phillips, who have made 26 appearances already in the Premier and Champions leagues.
That is astonishing number of senior appearances for such a young group, and with the exception of Phillips, who was missed off the European squad, most will be present again in Denmark.
And Klopp says they deserve recognition as genuine first team players now. “We clearly had some problems injury-wise, we lost top top top top-class players to injuries and of course,” he explained.
“One door closes and another opens up. But you still need the right players to use the chance. Thank god it worked out – because they were ready.
“What Rhys Williams did in the Champions League is exceptional, what Nat did when he played Premier League was absolutely exceptional, Neco played two really good games in a row especially the last one.
“Curtis plays already like he has been 10 years with us. Caoimhin was always a talent and now he has the chance to show that on the big stage, to use that opportunity is nice for him.”
Kelleher will continue in goal in Denmark with first choice keeper Alisson still sidelined with a hamstring problem, and the 22 year old keeper admitted he is still pinching himself as he prepares for a European debut after two fine Premier League performances in a week.
“Yeah it’s been a decent week! What can I say? Two debuts in one week, it’s been a bit of a mad one,” he said with a huge smile.
“My phone was buzzing for about three days afterwards, just from friends, family, former coaches, everyone really.
“Alisson texted me as well just to say well done, and that he was proud of me. The messages were all nice and supportive, so it was good to get them.”