Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has to deal with playing two games in as many days next month. Here's how he could do it...
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Liverpool are facing a fixture headache in December after the EFL refused to rearrange the date of their upcoming Carabao Cup quarterfinal against Aston Villa next month.
With no midweek date spare for the cup tie, the Reds now have to play two games on different continents in the space of 24 hours.
First is the aforementioned quarterfinal at Villa Park on Dec. 17 (kick-off at 7.45 p.m. UK time, stream live on ESPN+ in U.S.) and the second being a FIFA Club World Cup semifinal in Qatar the following day (5.30 p.m. in the UK; 8.30 p.m. local time).
Liverpool announced on Tuesday that they will use two squads in order to fulfil their commitment, after Klopp had threatened to forfeit the Carabao Cup unless a solution could be found.
Given this most unusual selection headache, the German manager must now assess his options.
1st team in Qatar; reserves/youth players at Villa
This is the probable solution, with the Reds already confirming that they plan to use "two squads simultaneously" and that FIFA command far more sway than the EFL and Carabao combined. But where's the fun in that?
1st team at Villa; reserves/youth players in Qatar
Liverpool insisted in their statement that when it comes to the League Cup, they have "the best interests of the competition at heart" -- which they might do, considering they've won it more times (8) than any other club.
By fielding a full-strength side against Villa and sending their fringe players to Doha, the Reds could send a pithy message to FIFA, given it was they who saddled Klopp and Co. with this predicament in the first place.
Liverpool have said they will use two squads but there is nothing to stop Klopp changing his mind and playing first-choice stars such as Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah at Villa and then bundle them all on a flight to Qatar for a double-shift.
The only issue being that there are no direct flights from Liverpool to Doha, so they'd have to gamble by booking a flight from either Manchester or Birmingham on the morning of Dec. 18, but any delays will almost definitely see the players miss kick-off.
As for fans, given the vast expense and travel time involved we strongly advise they pick one or the other -- though a few hardy souls will no doubt try and make it to both games just for the fun of it.
An alternate Liverpool
It's a tall order, but maybe Liverpool might get away with sending a team of namesakes to Qatar in their stead. The obvious choice would be Liverpool Futbol Club of Montevideo.
They'd be free too, as their Uruguayan Clausura season comes to an end on Dec. 8, giving them plenty of time to prepare.
The kids are alright
Liverpool unveil the squad that will play in the Carabao Cup 24 hours before their Club World Cup semifinal 👀 pic.twitter.com/5HHiYxK9T0— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) November 5, 2019
Liverpool could always play the kids... as in, actual children. Places in the starting XI could be given out as prizes in a special raffle/prematch musical chairs, etc.
A time for legends
I'm free if need it🤣🤣 !! https://t.co/NhdxM1N0el— Luis Garcia (@luchogarcia14) November 5, 2019
Luis Garcia has already offered his services. Perhaps it's time to give Djimi Traore and Anthony Le Tallec a call and get the class of '2004-05 back together?
Manchester United, Arsenal's back-to-back games can inspire Liverpool
Of course, while teams having to play twice in short succession is a rare occurrence, it isn't entirely without precedent.
Liverpool themselves have been through this before, in December of 1986, when they were forced to play Manchester United (a 1-0 defeat) and Sheffield Wednesday (a 1-0 win) on Boxing Day and Dec. 27 respectively.
Both Arsenal and Manchester United did it on consecutive days as recently as 2001, when they played separate Premier League fixtures on Nov. 4 and then faced each other in the League Cup the very next day. Arsenal goalkeeper Richard Wright even started both of those games and stayed for the full 90 minutes in each.
However, that turnaround is nothing compared to the feat of Venezuelan club Deportivo Lara, who were forced to play two games in the space of just six hours last year. They emerged victorious in both matches, and that's despite a power cut plunging the stadium into darkness during the first fixture.
Mark Hughes also famously managed to play two games in two different countries on the same day when he played the full 90 minutes for Wales in a 1988 European Championship qualifier against the Czech Republic in Prague and then flew back to his club Bayern Munich to play in a big DFB Pokal match against Borussia Dortmund. Hughes came on in the second half with Bayern trailing 1-0 and his introduction instigated a magnificent comeback as the Bavarians ultimately won 3-2 in extra-time.
Japan kit a step away from the norm
Japan have released their new national team home kit for 2020 and it's a fair departure from the norm.
Instead of a block blue design with red and white trim, the 'Samurai Blue' have adopted a camo-style motif inspired by both the bright blue skies above Japan and traditional art.
The eye-catching design conjures images of Great Waves off the coast of Kanagawa and vistas of Mount Fuji.
As for the rest of the kit, the patterned shirt is coupled with plain blue navy shorts and sky blue socks.