Pep Lijnders was back in front of the media ahead of Liverpool’s League Cup final and was insightful and intriguing as ever.
Here are six key points from the assistant manager with the final just days away:
Will we see Jota or Firmino?
One, definitely not. The other, possibly.
Roberto Firmino is “pushing himself really hard” in his recovery from an adductor injury but will not win his race against the clock for Sunday, Lijnders confirmed.
Diogo Jota, meanwhile, has had “no reaction” to the demands placed on his ankle in recent days but while he “isn’t ruled out,” it “will be a challenge” for the No. 20.
The likelihood is that it is the bench or nothing for Jota and now it is a wait and see game.
Klopp is ‘more than a colleague’
Jurgen Klopp readily dishes out praise for his players and coaches, never one to take credit for a decision that was not his alone and Lijnders is no exception.
And the appreciation was recipocated.
“First of all, Jurgen is so much more than a colleague to me. I’m really grateful and really happy with the way we work together.
“It is a commitment based on respect and trust, with this trust comes with a lot of freedom and opinion.
“It’s not just me and him, it’s so much more backroom staff that are in our ears and putting us on the right path.”
A certain starter
Caomihin Kelleher is to start the final after earning his place in the competition, in what is to be another notable step in his young career.
The 23-year-old has grown in leaps and bounds and Lijnders was excited to discuss his quality.
“I was the coach of the under-16s when we signed him,” he explained.
“He came into my team and we saw from the start that all the things he shows now on a really high level, he had at that time.
“Him reaching the final, it shows that there’s an inside path for all young goalkeepers inside our club.”
We finally saw the moment we all dreamed off against Leeds, with Joel Matip’s adventure forward ending in a goal.
It was always in the reckoning but the goal is part of a much larger plus point for the Reds when playing out from the back.
“It’s not the first time it happened, we call it the ‘classic Joel dribble.’ He does it a lot in the small-sided games, for example, he comes a lot one-v-one with the goalkeeper.
“I really believe the way we bring the ball out from the back has improved massively over the years, this is one of the steps we have to make – you want to create the last pass from everywhere, including the center-backs and Alisson.
“Then you see the team is connected and that is a good sign.”
It’s an ongoing conflict that the mind does not drift too far away and while Lijnders was not eager to delve too deep, he did offer an opinion on the matter and the Champions League final being moved to Paris.
“It is truly awful. It is so serious and as a football coach, at this moment, sitting here in front of sport cup, I don’t think it is the right time to speak about my opinion.
“It doesn’t feel appropriate, but what I can say is I am a father, a son, a brother, a husband. A human being.
“Each war is a true disappointment for humankind.”
“If I have to give a reaction in a football way, of course, it is the right decision to move the Champions League final.”
‘So much more than the first team’
It’s been a real squad effort in the League Cup, with 29 players across the five games to date – including a handful of exciting youth talent.
And that fills Lijnders with a source of pride, with Liverpool’s place in the final coming thanks to the efforts of the entire club.
“This is a competition where we want to bring young talent, we want to showcase and we want to launch – that’s really important.
“If you look at best clubs in the world, what do they have in common? A one-club mentality and our journey in the League Cup shows we have exactly that.
“This competition is so much more than the first team, it was a proper compliment to our academy as well.”