Pep Lijnders insists Liverpool intend to take the Carabao Cup very seriously, starting with the deployment of a ‘Premier League’ team against MK Dons.
The Reds reached the semifinals of the competition in Jurgen Klopp’s first full season at the helm but have since fallen at the first hurdle on two consecutive occasions.
They were beaten 2-0 at Leicester in 2017 and last year were knocked out at the hands of Chelsea in their only Anfield defeat of the season.
Klopp hasn’t placed much value on the domestic cups of late, and in truth that approach probably won’t change with big players very unlikely to be risked.
But Lijnders says the tournament is ‘something special’ and is hopeful there is sufficient depth in the Liverpool squad to compete on multiple fronts.
“We want to compete in each competition, we want to attack each competition,” the assistant boss said in his pre-match press conference. “We worked so hard to be in this situation where we can compete in each one.
“For me, cup competitions are the soul of football because it represents a chance for smaller clubs to play against Premier League clubs and can give historic games for fans. That’s what we’re up against tomorrow.
“The cup competitions are something special; when two local teams play against each other, that environment you get with the cup competitions.
Lijnders expects a ‘highly-motivated’ MK Dons to pose a challenge for what he promises will be a strong XI.
He went as far as to claim that the squad is possessed by the ‘same hunger’ it had prior to the game against Chelsea.
“We want to attack this cup, we want to attack tomorrow’s game, we will put a team in place that, for me, is a Premier League team.
“The players feel this responsibility as well: a highly-motivated team plays against us and the players feel this responsibility, so they really look forward to it, I really look forward to it.
“It’s another opportunity to put our identity in place and show our passion.
“We prepare for the game in the same way we prepared for Chelsea, with the same access, probably even more detail, but with the same hunger to win it.”
If Liverpool are to go deep into the League Cup, it’ll be the work of a combination of experienced players on the fringes (like James Milner and Adam Lallana) and exciting talents like Rhian Brewster.