Liverpool's busy February gives youngsters more opportunities to impress

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For the past two months, it's been all systems go for Liverpool. Fixtures have come thick and fast and there hasn't been much time for Jurgen Klopp to rest.

Following a total of 16 matches throughout December and January, the Reds have a further eight in February, at least. Mrs Klopp has likely got used to not seeing her husband due to his hectic workload of late.

Given Liverpool's current situation, there's no wonder why Klopp will be dreading another busy month ahead. Key players such as Martin Skrtel, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge still remain sidelined with injury and the German is left with just one recognised striker in Christian Benteke.


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Fixture schedule

The Merseyside outfit's 0-0 draw against West Ham United in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday means that Liverpool have been forced to play one more fixture than scheduled in the second month of the year. If they get through the tie at Upton Park, it results in Klopp's side playing two matches every week in February.

The ex-Borussia Dortmund manager has already voiced his opinion on Liverpool's fixture list and that indeed of the format in England.

"In Germany, when you tell people about the FA Cup, that if you draw you play again, they say 'What!' Here you have penalties and extra time, but only after the second game. That's the thing, it's the number of games — football, football, football," the 48-year-old said when asked to give Pep Guardiola advice before he joins the Premier League.

Liverpool's schedule in February, combined with the long injury list at Anfield, is a living nightmare for Klopp.

Just three days before the Reds meet Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley on February 28, they host German outfit FC Augsburg in the second leg of their Europa League last 32 tie.

Chance for youngsters

Klopp's resources will certainly be strung out throughout the month, especially if few or none of his chief protagonists return to give aid.

However, the younger, emerging advocates of the Anfield dressing room have softened the blow for Klopp in recent weeks and they'll rightly get several more opportunities to prove their stock.

Players coming through the academy ranks in recent years at Liverpool has been an alarmingly low number. For both the club and its supporters, it's vital that fresh blood is ploughed through the system on a consistent basis.

Cameron Brannagan has showed his maturity in the middle of the park on numerous occasions this season when given the nod. Simple yet intelligent on the ball, he rarely puts a foot wrong and is growing with confidence after every appearance. In the middle of the park against West Ham facing the vastly experienced Alex Song and Pedro Obiang, Brannagan was highly competitive, as was Kevin Stewart.

Brad Smith almost left the club in the summer after a complicated process of contract negotiations. However, he's proved his ability at left-back under Klopp. He's powerful on the break and has a superb cross but Smith also never surrenders his defensive duties and puts them first.

Sheyi Ojo has returned from a successful loan spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers and continued his decent vein of form. He's a genuine winger who offers Klopp the option of both pace and width and Ojo looks hungry to make his mark.

Joao Teixeira also was lively against the Irons. Now 23-years-old, it has to be sooner rather than later if he is to make his mark at Anfield as Coutinho and Roberto Firmino are only one and two years his senior.

There's no doubt that the five aforementioned will play some part in Liverpool's two matches against Augsburg and it would be no surprise if they all started against West Ham.

Flanagan return

The return of Jon Flanagan from his long-term injury has also offered Klopp a timely boost.

Following one-and-a-half years on the sidelines with a recurring knee problem, Flanagan made his first start for 626 days in Liverpool's League Cup semi-final second leg against Stoke City last Tuesday.

The England international looked as if he hadn't been deprived of a decent chunk of his career. He was Klopp's man of the match against the Potters and is a solid 'new' addition to his manager's squad. It's easy to forget Flanagan is still just 22-years-old and has room for improvement.

Nathaniel Clyne has made 32 appearances this term for the Reds. Although he's largely been consistent at right-back since his switch from Southampton during the summer, the quantity of matches he's featured in has likely had an effect on him. He was forced out against Stoke with a knock and despite featuring against West Ham, could potentially miss more games later in the season.

Alberto Moreno's form has dipped in recent weeks and, given Flanagan largely played at left-back when Liverpool went within a whisker of winning the Premier League title in 2014, he is a prime candidate to take over the role along with Smith.

Of course, Klopp will be hoping his stars will be back sooner rather than later, especially for the League Cup final.

However, in the meantime, Liverpool's less experienced players have a good chance to stake their claims to their boss.

Which current Liverpool youngsters have the ability to become first team regulars? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!

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West Ham United
Steven Gerrard
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