Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he will not judge any of his young players on their performance in the 2-1 Europa League dead-rubber defeat to Union Saint Gilloise in Brussels.
Klopp’s team was the youngest in their history by some considerable margin to play a European game with an average age of just 21.9 years and six players aged 20 or under and that showed against the Belgian league leaders.
One of those 20-year-olds Jarell Quansah, who has already made 12 appearances this season, cancelled out Mohammed Amoura’s opener with his first senior goal but Cameron Puertas put the hosts ahead again at the end of an understandably disjointed first half.
Klopp took responsibility for the nature of the performance and absolved his youngsters of any blame.
“I mixed up the team completely, so I think the changes we made, the amount of changes, were too much for rhythm,” he said.
“I would never judge a player after a game like this and say, ‘OK, he’s obviously not good enough’ or whatever.
“I know how good they are because I see them every day in training and tonight is an important experience.
“I don’t think any career ever started without these kind of games where you have to struggle, where you have to fight through, where you have to survive.
“For some it was a really important experience and for others good for rhythm. I saw good performances.
“Of course as a team it is not a fair assessment if I say now they are top of the table in Belgium and we come here, bring kids – altogether that’s really difficult – but I thought we gave it a go and that’s OK for me.
“Nobody got hurt, nobody is injured, so we recover, go home and go again.”
Joel Matip’s surgery this week on an ACL injury leaves Klopp trying to find the most suitable partner for Virgil van Dijk, who along with Alisson Becker and Mohamed Salah was left at home with Liverpool already guaranteed top spot.
Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez played a half apiece to give Klopp a decision on who to pick for the visit of Manchester United on Sunday.
“We just wanted to share the intensity. Do I want to play Joe Gomez 90 or Ibou 90 if we had the chance to do that?,” he added.
“(I decided) 45 and 45, the same in midfield. These changes were planned before the game, independent of the result.”