Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp defended his decision to rest so many first-team players for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Anfield in which fourth-tier Plymouth Argyle forced a replay the Premier League club did not want.
The failure of his shadow team – showing 10 changes from their last Premier League outing – to break through in a largely uneventful goalless draw meant that Liverpool could face nine matches during January.
They are already scheduled to play three other midweek games – a two-leg League Cup semi-final against Southampton and a crucial Premier League game against leaders Chelsea.
“I made the decision to make changes and name a young side – that’s life,” Klopp told BT Sport. “With our other lineup it could be possible that the result was still the same. Not likely but possible. It was a good experience for the boys.”
The German agreed that Plymouth, lying second in League Two, were worth their draw, although he could not resist a dig at their defensive approach.
“Plymouth deserved the draw and the rematch,” he added. “I don’t know how many people live in Plymouth. But it felt like the whole of Plymouth was in the 18-yard box.
“We needed to stay cool and patient. That’s the biggest challenge in football, when you’re playing against a deep-lying defensive side.
“We made our own problems. A game like this is not easy to make exciting. We had a young side so that’s difficult. We can do better and if we do better then we have a good chance of making the next round.”
Plymouth’s manager Derek Adams, who joined the south-west club in 2015 having previously managed Scotland’s Ross County, defended his team’s tactics.
“It would have been really naive for me as a coach to tell my players to go out and play up against Liverpool’s world-class players,” he said.
“It was about allowing them to have the ball and closing down the space, and it worked very well. The name of the game was to stay in the match and overall we’re delighted to get them back to Plymouth.”
Irish midfielder Graham Carey, a boyhood Liverpool fan, promised his old favourites a hot reception in the replay next week.
“The character and work rate we showed today was unbelievable,” he said.
“The atmosphere has been brilliant and it will be the same when they come to our place. I’ve come here as a fan before – the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck.”