Klopp: Liverpool to only play kids in FA Cup replay

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said no first-team players will be involved in their FA Cup fourth-round replay with third-tier Shrewsbury Town next month because it clashes with his side’s Premier League winter break.

Klopp also said that he would not manage the team, and instead under-23s coach Neil Critchley would again take charge. Critchley was in the dugout for the Carabao Cup quarterfinal tie against Aston Villa in December when Liverpool’s first-team squad were in Qatar at the FIFA Club World Cup. Villa won 5-0. Klopp was scathing about the situation in an interview with media last month, saying that the Football Association had made an “incredible” decision to schedule the replays during the winter break.

A much-changed side were forced to a replay by Shrewsbury on Sunday as they let slip a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 in a pulsating tie at New Meadow. He has never taken Liverpool into the fifth round of the FA Cup since arriving in October 2015, and now appears ready to sacrifice the chance of ending that poor record.

Shrewsbury’s players and fans celebrated wildly at the prospect of a trip to Anfield, but Klopp was not amused.

The new Premier League winter break means all clubs will have a blank weekend. Liverpool, who lead the table by a massive 16 points, should be playing no matches after they face Southampton on Feb. 1 until they meet Norwich City on Feb. 15. Now they have to host Shrewsbury in the week beginning Feb. 3.

“In April 2019, we got a letter from the Premier League where they asked us to respect the winter break, not to organise friendlies and not to organise competitive games in respect of it,” Klopp told reporters. “I have said to the boys already, two weeks ago, that we will have a winter break, so it means we will not be there — it will be the kids who play that game because they cannot deal with us like nobody cares about it.

“I know it is not very popular, but that’s the way I see it. The Premier League asked us to respect the winter break and that’s what we’ll do. If then the FA do not respect it then we cannot change. But we will not be there.”

Klopp, who believes cup replays should be scrapped, will almost certainly be as good as his word.

“It’s about players’ welfare and they need a rest — mental rest, physical rest,” he said. “That’s what the winter break is about and then another competition tells us it’s not that important. We had to make these decisions before because the boys have family and the international players like Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, all these guys they never have time off.”

Newcastle, Southampton and Tottenham also face replays during their breaks, and while their managers are not happy with the situation there is no suggestion they will field youth teams.