Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed it was always his intention to give Jordan Henderson and Thiago Alcantara 45 minutes each during Friday night’s FA Cup third round win over Aston Villa, and that there were no injury concerns for either player.
Thiago has only recently returned from a lengthy injury layoff and is still building up his match fitness, having started just a single game since his return. For Henderson, it was an important opportunity to rest in the middle of a congested fixture schedule.
The Liverpool boss also said the Reds had no qualms about playing the game, which had been in jeopardy when a coronavirus outbreak at Villa forced the first-team squad and coaching staff into isolation. Instead, Liverpool played a junior Villa side, all of whom were tested in advance of the game.
“We had our test results and they came back yesterday (Thursday), so everyone was negative and what they did was right with their Under-23s,” Klopp commented.
“I think they got tested and got the results at 10 o'clock when we were in the car park at the airport and so everything is fine.”
Sadio Mane gave Liverpool an early lead in the fourth minute, only for Villa to hold their own and fight back with an equaliser from 17-year-old Louie Barry. But the visitors pulled clear with a flurry of three goals in five minutes after the hour mark to prevail 4-1.
It was Georginio Wijnaldum and Mohamed Salah who scored either side of a second for Mane.
With primary focus on the Premier League and Champions League, the FA Cup is not a competition that Liverpool have ever done that well in under Klopp. Last season’s fifth round appearance is the furthest they have been during the German’s time in charge.
The Reds are now in the fourth round and will learn who their opponent is when the draw is made on Monday 11 January at 7.10pm (GMT). The fixtures will then be played on the weekend of 23/24 January, with Liverpool having to contend with a congested Premier League schedule as well.