Liverpool booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup after they thumped an Aston Villa academy team 4-1 at Villa Park.
And if there were any illusions about Jurgen Klopp’s ambition to win the cup this season, they were shattered when his line-up was confirmed on Friday.
With Villa forced to name a team comprising of players from the Under 18s and 23s, the champions came into the match as overwhelming favourites with the bookmakers.
But despite Villa putting out the youngsters, Liverpool named a team capable of competing against the Premier League ’s best.
One player that was handed a rare opportunity was Takumi Minamino. Since signing 12 months ago, the Japanese international has been slowly integrated into Klopp’s starting XI.
In total, prior to the game at Villa Park, Minamino had played just 676 minutes, with the Liverpool boss admitting he may have made a mistake in not playing him more.
Ahead of the FA Cup clash, he said: “You come in, a new club and everybody thinks that you will score 20, 30, 40 goals and stuff like this.
“He is in a good shape – a really good shape – he developed, he got used to it.
“He was a good player when we signed him, obviously, but he got used to the intensity, the league, training, all this stuff.
“He made big steps. I know the last game he played was Crystal Palace and since then we didn’t win another [game], so we should think about involving him, obviously.”
However, after being handed a glorious opportunity against Villa’s youngsters, Minamino fluffed his lines.
The forward struggled throughout the game and was taken off with the tie still in the balance at 2-1.
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After scoring just once in their last three league games, Minamino had a golden chance to show Klopp he had made an error – and to force his way into his manager’s thoughts.
But after a dour display he was replaced by Xherdan Shaqiri, another player vying for the same spot.
Managers that reach the heights that Klopp has, rarely admit they have made mistake, but Minamino’s performance may show he was right to limit his minutes anyway.
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