“I’d Be Amazed…” – Neil Jones On Availability Of ‘Special’ Liverpool Star Vs West Ham

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Liverpool came away from Sunday’s fixture with Manchester United disappointed, with the game ending in a goalless draw. The Reds struggled to break down Eric Ten Hag’s side, failing to repeat their goalscoring exploits of the past two seasons.

Ryan Gravenberch was substituted off with an injury on the hour mark and is a major doubt for tonight’s EFL Cup tie with West Ham. Assistant manager Pep Ljinders struck a hopeful tone when discussing the 21-year-old’s condition, telling reporters: “I can’t see why he would not be available for the next week.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Alexis Mac Allister, whose injury will ‘go into the new year’.

There was further bad news regarding Ben Doak, who requires an operation after tearing his lateral meniscus. The young Scot would have been hoping for minutes against the Hammers and will be bitterly disappointed after failing to make an impact so far this season.

With crucial league fixtures against Arsenal, Burnley and Newcastle United approaching, can Jürgen Klopp afford to risk his star players in a competition that carries the least prestige of the four he is trying to win?

On the latest episode of our Journo Insight show, we asked experienced reporter Neil Jones for his thoughts on Liverpool’s injuries and their EFL Cup fixture.

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“Mac Allister’s definitely one that they miss, but Jota – I think – is the one that they miss badly. They’ve scored nine goals in the Premier League since he was injured and only one of them has been from the forwards, and I don’t think that’s any coincidence. 

“The knock-on effect of him not being available is that the three have really been asked to do it all in the league games with Gakpo as the sub. It just means that maybe they’re adding the fatigue, but also they’re not in form as well.  

“I’d be amazed if we see him [Gravenberch] tomorrow. I’d be surprised if we see him against Arsenal and Burnley… I’m not holding my breath on that one. I think we might not see Gravenberch until at least January 1st.  

“Opportunities come from misfortune sometimes, and Ben Doak’s misfortune might be Kaide Gordon’s opportunity. I don’t think anyone would begrudge Kaide Gordon an opportunity after the luck he’s had.  

“I think we’ll see most of the first team in the squad, most of the big hitters. I don’t think we’ll see Van Dijk. I don’t think Liverpool can afford to lose Van Dijk. I don’t think they can afford to lose Salah by playing 90, or Trent by playing 90. I would lean towards playing Szoboszlai.  

“The mentality they build is: ‘It’s the League Cup. Are you tired? So what! You’ve got West Ham on Wednesday. Play. Beat them.’ They did that unbelievably well in the quadruple-chasing season. 

“Why wouldn’t you be relishing this? I don’t buy in – at all – to the idea that the League Cup should be given away, certainly not lightly. I don’t think Jürgen and the team will feel that way either.” 

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Fighting talk from Neil ahead of a tricky-looking League Cup tie against West Ham. David Moyes will be desperate for his first win at Anfield, having failed in his previous 20 attempts. The Hammers will see the competition as a winnable one, with Fulham, Middlesbrough or an inconsistent Chelsea awaiting in the semi-final.  

Six of the side that lost to Union SG in the Europa League were aged 20 or younger. A similarly inexperienced XI would likely struggle against West Ham, whose players and fans have been bitten by the trophy bug following their UEFA Conference League triumph.  

Jürgen Klopp has a tricky task on his hands. He has to balance giving the Reds the best opportunity to progress in a competition they are favourites to win, whilst simultaneously managing the minutes of an increasingly stretched squad which finds itself involved in a title race. Good luck, boss! 

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