Neil Critchley has outlined the importance of Liverpool U21s entering the EFL Trophy for the first time this season.

A young Reds side will kick-off 2019-20 with a trip to Oldham Athletic in their first EFL Trophy group game on Wednesday night - a match you can watch live on LFCTV GO.

With other fixtures at Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley to follow, Critchley believes the challenge of taking on senior sides will prove invaluable to his young players.

Read on for the manager’s pre-match thoughts...

On the club competing in the EFL Trophy for the first time...

We can’t wait. It’s the first time we have entered this competition. We took some advice from other teams who have been in the competition and they spoke very well of it. We thought it was the right time for us to enter it as well and we start with Oldham Athletic. It’s a game we are really looking forward to, playing in a first-team stadium in front of supporters, playing against men which will be something different for our players. Hopefully this will be an enjoyable experience.

On the challenge of facing League Two opposition in Oldham…

Oldham are a new team with a new manager and they have brought a lot of players in. It’s a little bit of a step into the unknown for us because I’m sure their manager is still working out what their best team is and how they are going to play. As ever we will just concentrate on what we do and try and put that onto the pitch. Oldham Athletic is a really good club and for our boys to get the chance to play against senior players who have got more experience than ours, you have to stand up to those challenges and the physical test. That’s up to our boys to prove themselves and impose their game and our game onto them.

On the decision to play all three EFL Trophy group games away from home...

To play away from home in first-team stadiums under the lights is a different experience for our boys and it’s something you can’t replicate back here at the Academy. I think we will benefit hugely from being in this competition, the staff will be learning as much as the players, but we need to learn quickly. We want to try and have a successful first time of being in this competition and get as far as we can.

On the selection headaches posed by an U21 competition for his team…

There are certain stipulations that we have to follow. We are only allowed to play two players who are over 21. We will obviously have a young team but Oldham have some restrictions as well and they are the rules in place which make sure young players get the experience and exposure to playing in these type of competitions. Whatever team we have out I’m sure it will be a good enough team to go and give a good account of ourselves.

On an extended fixture list for his side this season with Premier League 2, Premier League Cup and Premier League International Cup games also to come in 2019-20…

This is what we want for our young players. That is why we have entered all of these competitions. I think at this stage of their development and their age it’s important that you expose the players to playing game in and game out. You only have to look at our first team and the amount of games they play, the players who go out on loan play 40-plus games in a season so we need to try and replicate that as close as possible. We want our boys to get used to playing, then recover and play again in games that count, play in competitions where we have to get a result to get through. That is another reason for entering this competition. Character and perseverance and building that resilience at this age is so important and we think exposing them to tough games is a really good way of doing that. 

Get the latest LFC news direct to your smart speaker
Never miss a beat Google Amazon
BEN WINTERBOTTOM

U19s finish fourth in Oberndorf tournament