Liverpool may have recorded an astonishing 5-4 victory on penalties over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night after a crazy 5-5 draw in normal time, but it may cause more harm than good in the long run.
Jurgen Klopp managed to defeat ‘the Gunners’ at Anfield whilst leaving the vast majority of his usual starting eleven out of the matchday squad. The European Champions have been drawn to face Aston Villa in the last eight of the League Cup at Villa Park on the week commencing December 16th. However, Liverpool are scheduled to play in the Club World Cup semi-finals in Qatar on December 18th.
Clearly this feat won’t be feasible for the Merseyside club and the EFL said on Thursday morning it is in discussions with Liverpool to “identify an alternative date” with the club for their Carabao Cup quarter-final tie.
From November 23rd – January 2nd Liverpool have an astounding 13 fixtures in all competitions. After the fourth-round victory over their Premier League rivals under the lights Klopp said, “It shows the problem we have in the Premier League that no one cares about things like this, so that’s how it is. The competition is there, we play the game, if we have no time for the next round, we cannot change it. FIFA tells us we have to go to the Club World Cup, the Premier League tells us we have to play in the Carabao Cup so we try to play it, but if we don’t find time it will not happen in our winter break or whatever they give us, because we need that.”
Liverpool’s squad has already been hampered by injuries this season with Shaqiri still missing, Alisson only making his return a couple of weeks ago after picking up a calf problem on the opening day, and now Joel Matip is reportedly facing up to six weeks out with a knee issue. Klopp will need every man available during these winter months as tricky trips to Salzburg and Leicester come after the visits of Napoli and city rivals Everton.
The main threat to Liverpool’s Premier League push, Manchester City have also had to endure problems of their own with defensive injuries aplenty, but the Champions League and Carabao Cup draws have been considerably kinder to Guardiola’s men. The English champions face league one side Oxford United in the last eight of the competition they have won for the last two years, allowing them to rest key personnel. The cityzens also have comparably easier ties in Europe, facing the prospect of a trip to Dinamo Zagreb and the visit of Shakhtar Donestk in a group they already lead by five points.
City of course, also don’t have to contend with the issue of travelling thousands of miles to Qatar halfway through the busiest month of the year. Nevertheless, the Premier League fixtures do look tough for the Etihad side as Chelsea, Leicester and their biggest rivals, Manchester United all come to their backyard. They also travel to Molineux on the December 27th to face a Wolves team that defeated them just a few weekends ago.
Liverpool’s six point gap at the top may begin to look smaller and smaller over the next few days as the size of the task they face in the coming months becomes apparent. The fans are desperate for Klopp to end their 30 year wait for a Premier League trophy and they may never get a better opportunity. The title could be won or lost from the end of November to the middle of January depending on how Liverpool cope with this festive fixture pile-up.
Whilst it is hard not to have some sympathy for Klopp and everyone at Anfield, it is also a bit bemusing as to why they did not plan for this scenario better. Ever since Liverpool defeated Tottenham in the Champions League final at the beginning of June they knew this was a possibility. Instead of making additions to the squad and adding strength in depth, they allowed the likes of Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge to leave without being replaced. Although not many fans would have been disappointed to see either man leave, the lack of any direct replacement should have caused concern. Manchester City can swap Sterling for Sane, Aguero for Jesus and De Bruyne for Gundogan.
The drop off from starting XI to the bench at Liverpool is drastic in comparison. The Liverpool board will surely regret only spending £4.4 million in the summer if it is the number of games and fatigue, rather than a lack of quality, that denies them a maiden Premier League title.