The Anfield Wrap’s match preview before Liverpool v Derby County in the League Cup third round at Anfield…


I’VE recently rediscovered my love for the League Cup.

Yes, it’s easier when you are reminded how good winning it feels, but I was at the point with it where I was all in favour of it being swerved completely to allow our players more rest and recovery time.

On days like today though, in seasons like this season, it is such a nice break to know you’ve got a game coming up with less riding on it than in the Premier League or even the Champions League.

That might seem contradictory to say you care about the League Cup and simultaneously say there is less pressure to win games in it, but one of the reasons to have grown so fond of the competition again is that it gives the opportunity for us to see some younger players and senior lads who have fallen down the pecking order getting some minutes.

Them getting results can still mean a lot to us because they are still our lads, just look at Leicester at home last season as a prime example. They aren’t, though, the lads that are being run into the ground while their hometown hopes and dreams hang on a winter World Cup. There is less pressure on them too, as a result.

That’s why I’m so excited for tonight, and I hope the lads that might feature will be too.

I’m excited to see the return of our League Cup hero Caoimhin Kelleher in goal. It was, of course, his penalty and Kepa’s subsequent miss that gave us that moment in Wembley last season. He’s had injury issues since, so it will be nice for both us and him to have him back between the sticks.

Liverpool's Caoimhin Kelleher, who scored the decisive last penalty kick of the shoot out, celebrates with the trophy after winning the Football League Cup Final match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Wembley Stadium

The defence is probably the only area of the pitch that can pick itself, with Calvin Ramsay, Nat Phillips, Joe Gomez and Kostas Tsimikas all in need of minutes. It will be great to see the Scottish right back get his first start, but it’s also a chance of Gomez to get his feet back on the ground after a few shaky moments during his recent spell in the side.

In midfield, I’m expecting Stefan Bajcetic to be partnered by Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones. It looks a lightweight midfield on paper, but each of those three has more than enough about them to break things up and keep The Reds on the front foot throughout the tie.

Upfront, I’d expect things to look stronger than most would imagine. I’ve already seen a rumoured team which features Layton Stewart, which I’d love to see, but I think he’ll start from the bench with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Darwin Nunez and Fabio Carvalho given the nod. Perhaps, though, there’s a World Cup question with Darwin that could yet see Stewart sneak in.

It’s a night to be excited. A night for a younger crowd than usual to see a younger team than usual, with less pressure on both fans and players than usual.

Wherever you are, enjoy it Reds.

Predicted 11: Kelleher; Ramsay, Phillips, Gomez, Tsimikas; Elliott, Bajcetic, Jones; Chamberlain, Darwin, Carvalho

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