Jurgen Klopp has ensured that Liverpool’s return to the Champions League has another layer of scrutiny by making Loris Karius his European No 1.
Karius, who endured a difficult first 12 months on Merseyside following his £5million arrival from Mainz, will take over between the posts against Sevilla tonight with Simon Mignolet given the responsibility of playing in the Premier League.
Liverpool have three goalkeepers and Klopp wants them all to get competitive games through the season, Karius being the man for Europe and Mignolet in charge for the Premier League, while Danny Ward is expected to start Carabao Cup ties.
It is a bold move on Klopp’s part. Karius has only played two European matches in his career, both of which came in a Europa League play-off against Greek side Asteras Tripolis in the summer of 2014. Mainz lost 3-2 on aggregate.
Klopp, though, has no concerns about putting a relative novice in goal for one of the club’s biggest nights in recent years. He insists the reasoning for going with Karius in Europe does not mean he has suddenly established a pecking order.
‘I can tell you the situation with absolute truth,’ said Klopp, who will include Philippe Coutinho in his squad for the first time this season. ‘How can we have Simon as No 1 and play the other goalkeepers not once throughout the year? If they train badly they don’t deserve a game, but they both train really well. If we don’t give them a game, then every year we have to find a No 2, who is 33 years old, still can catch a few balls and doesn’t want to play any more. It’s really difficult to find someone like that.’
Karius, 24, has played only once this season and had little to do in the 4-0 drubbing of Arsenal on August 28. He was uncertain with the ball at his feet, which led to some groans from the Anfield crowd, but Klopp has huge faith in him.
‘I prefer having a group of good goalkeepers and that means you have to change things,’ said Klopp. ‘The game against Arsenal was exactly the same (as this will be)... it was very intense. We could have said afterwards it was not a goalkeeper game but we didn’t know that before.
‘Could he prove something? I think he did. He was very cool with the ball. I know for some people he was too cool with the ball but that can happen with no rhythm. Now he’s had the game it has helped him a lot and us also. He will start.’
Another man certain to start is Sadio Mane. Liverpool discovered yesterday that their appeal to get his three-match suspension lowered following a red card at Manchester City had been dismissed by the FA, a decision that did not surprise Klopp.
‘It was our duty to appeal but as I said after the game, it was a waste of time,’ said Klopp, who will make a late decision on whether to include Mohamed Salah in his plans. The Egyptian was sent home from Melwood with the effects of a virus.
Sevilla’s arrival evokes memories of arguably the most disappointing night of the German’s reign, when Liverpool lost the 2016 Europa League final to their Spanish opponents. But the opportunity to make a mark in the biggest competition of all is Liverpool’s motivation this evening.
‘It was a terrible defeat, but we took a big step,’ said Klopp. ‘We have changed a lot of things since the final, but they have also made progress.’
Liverpool (4-3-3): Karius; Gomez, Lovren, Matip, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Coutinho; Mane, Sturridge, Firmino.
Sevilla (4-3-3): Rico; Mercado, Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero; N’Zonzi, Pizarro, Banega; Navas, Ben Yedder, Correa.
Kick-off: 7.45pm, Anfield.
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Hol).