January 28, 2020 / 6:35 PM / a month ago

Klopp stands firm on decision to field weakened team for FA Cup replay

(Reuters) - Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp has defended his decision to use his under-23 squad against Shrewsbury Town in their FA Cup fourth-round replay, and said the Football Association did not consult “sports-responsible people” over dates for the game.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - FA Cup Fourth Round - Shrewsbury Town v Liverpool - Montgomery Waters Meadow, Shrewsbury, Britain - January 26, 2020 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp reacts Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine/File Photo

Liverpool drew 2-2 with the third-tier club on Sunday after which Klopp confirmed that no first-team player would feature in the replay because it clashed with the inaugural Premier League mid-season break.

The decision has attracted criticism, with Accrington Stanley owner Andy Holt calling for Liverpool to be fined.

In a news conference ahead of Liverpool’s league trip to West Ham United on Wednesday, Klopp, who will also miss the replay, defended his position in a response lasting over seven minutes.

“I have to make decisions that aren’t popular based on the situation we are in,” he said. “Because we plan long-term I cannot plan when there is a real decisive period coming up.

“If people think I am lazy because I am not there, I cannot change that and I’m not interested. I just feel responsible for my players. If we find a way to play it then nothing will change and we have to change it.”

Klopp confirmed under-23s boss Neil Critchley will take charge of the replay at Anfield.

Critchley took charge of a young Liverpool side in their League Cup defeat by Aston Villa when the first-team were in Qatar for the Club World Cup.

“Could I be here for the game? Of course, I could,” Klopp said.

“But that again is a complete misunderstanding of management and coaching. They need their coach and it is Critch.”

The FA said every club agreed to this season’s Cup fixture schedule and knew fourth-round replays might be played during their winter breaks.

“I don’t know who was there from which club, but I know the FA said all the clubs agreed,” Klopp said.

“No sports-responsible people were there. Not a club, not a manager, not a sporting director and that’s what we need.”

Klopp confirmed Sadio Mane will miss the next three matches after the forward sustained a muscle issue in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.

“Sadio will not be involved for West Ham and probably not Southampton. After that he will be back on track,” Klopp added.

“He has a small muscle tear which is serious enough. We were lucky with it though it wasn’t too serious.”

Runaway league leaders Liverpool could stretch their advantage over second-placed Manchester City to 19 points with a win at the London Stadium on Wednesday.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis

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