James Milner was needed to fill in last minute for Trent Alexander-Arnold who was a late withdrawal due to illness but the versatile Liverpool star has poked fun at his team-mate
James Milner has poked fun at Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold, claiming he wanted to avoid facing Wilfried Zaha.
The Reds right-back, so often a regular in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI, was a notable absentee on Saturday.
Alexander-Arnold was due to start but struggled with an illness and had to pull out at the eleventh hour.
It forced Liverpool into making some tweaks with Milner filling in at full-back, a position he has played previously.
It meant he had to combat Crystal Palace’s star man, who has long been a menace for defenders due to his pace and trickery.
Milner has joked that Alexander-Arnold was fearful of taking on the Eagles winger.
“Trent’s definitely going to get some ribbing for that,” he told the club website. “A bit of Zaha-itis or something like that!”
“It was probably three, two-and-a-half hours before the game really. But that’s what we’re prepared for and the training is done so anyone is ready at any time. That’s my job when I’m needed.”
Klopp rung the changes at Anfield but switching the personnel at right-back was not planned.
He said: “It was one [team change] we weren’t expecting. Trent woke up this morning and wasn’t feeling well so we had to send him home. It’s not Covid, though, to be clear.”
It meant Liverpool began with a completely different back four to the one that started in the midweek Champions League win over AC Milan.
Virgil van Dijk and Kostas Tsimikas both came in whilst Ibrahima Konate made his debut.
They all played their part as the Reds eased to a 3-0 win over Palace, taking them top of the Premier League.
Sadio Mane was amongst the scorers, bringing up his century in Red, as Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita also netted.
Milner added: “It’s impressive. Obviously all the boys up there do so much for the team – not only goals. Assists, working for the team off the ball and how we play and press, we couldn’t do it without the front boys starting it off.
“But Sadio has great quality, scored all types of goals and very important goals as well. Pleased for him because he’s such a good player and he deserves the accolades he gets.”
The versatile Reds star also highlighted the need to keep clean sheets after the Merseysiders again shut out their opponents.
He said: “I think the thing we need to look at as a team is the momentum factor and the results and the clean sheets. The clean sheets are so important – it’s such a great habit to get into.
“Obviously there’s games where you’re not playing so well and you get to nick one goal if you’re keeping that clean sheet – it’s massive and obviously the difference between two points.
“We need to keep doing that. We had a bit of luck today but at times you deserve a bit of luck and hopefully we can keep that going.”