Football | Caoimhin Kelleher set for Anfield debut

Caoimhin Kelleher will make his Anfield debut in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup clash with Arsenal.

The Irish goalkeeper will be handed his second start of the season, with the Reds’ assistant manager Pepijn Lijnders confirming the news today.

Cork native Kelleher – who has been named in Mick McCarthy’s provisiinal squad for the Boys in Green’s upcoming games against Denmark and New Zealand – made his senior debut for Jurgen Klopp’s men in Liverpool’s 2-0 win at MK Dons in the last round of the tournament, keeping a clean sheet and producing an assured performance between the posts.

The 20-year-old is third choice ‘keeper at Anfield, with Alisson the established number one and Adrian offering experienced cover for the Brazil international.

However,  Lijnders has confirmed that Republic of Ireland U21 shot stopper Kelleher will be Liverpool’s goalkeeper throughout the Carabao Cup.

“For us, Ali (Alisson) is our No.1 – more than a No.1 I would say!” the Dutchman said.

“We have Adrian, who did an unbelievable job and if something happens with Ali, Adrian is our No.2 and then has to do the job.

“But in this League Cup, it is Caoimhin’s competition. As I said before the MK Dons game, with youth development, with these moments when they are in between the U23s and the first team, consistency is very important.

“He had a good game and he is preparing for another one. It will be special for him playing at Anfield.”

Everybody has seen Caoimhin’s calmness to play the ball out. For his age as a goalkeeper, he is very stable. That’s what we like about him. We see a good future for him and want to give him his opportunity and you need these opportunities to grow.”

The Premier League leaders are expected to ring the changes for the visit of Arsenal, who will also likely field a youthful and weakened team.

Lijnders has hinted that Liverpool will field a youthful side, and fringe players such as Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Divock Origi and Joe Gomez will all be hoping to start.

Exciting teenage talent Harvey Elliot – signed from Fulham in the summer – is also expected to be included in the squad, and promising prospects Curtis Jones and Ki-Jana Hoever may also be included.

Rhian Brewster is another who could benefit if Klopp decides to make wholesale changes to the team that beat Spurs 2-1 at Anfield on Sunday. 

“We have some special (young) talent,” Lijnders continued. “It would not be intelligent not to use it.

“It’s important the youngsters are training around the first team. It creates a natural development for them. They can see with their own eyes the small detail. Not much more powerful weapon than examples of senior pros.”

Mohamed Salah may be rested entirely after being withdrawn shortly after his winning penalty against Spurs, though Lijnders stressed that the Egyptian’s substitution was precautionary.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip will definitely miss out through injury.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery will likely freshen things up after the Gunners’ 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace on Sunday at the Emirates.

Captain Granit Xhaka, who sparked controversy by reacting angrily to his treatment by Arsenal supporters, will not travel with the squad.

Lucas Torreira will be hoping to be given the opportunity to impress in Xhaka’s absence, and the trip to Merseyside could offer Arsenal’s impressive contingent of youth players a chance to shine against the in-form Reds.

Young striker Gabriel Martinelli has been in superb form for the Gunners in the Europa League, and may lead the line if Emery chooses to rest Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Reiss Nelson remains sidelined.