England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed he will be in Qatar next month, in part to monitor Liverpool’s FIFA Club World Cup campaign.
With the likes of Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Adam Lallana all potentially in action, the 49-year-old will certainly have plenty to ponder while he watches the two matches.
It remains to be seen whether Southgate will see English youngsters Rhian Brewster, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott – and indeed some of the senior players – in action, with the Reds travelling to Aston Villa for the Carabao Cup quarter-final just 22 hours before their semi-final kicks off in Doha.
In practice, this almost certainly means manager Jurgen Klopp will be forced into selecting two completely different squads for the two matches.
Surprisingly, given they have won the European Cup on six occasions, the Club World Cup Cup is a competition Liverpool have never won and it may therefore take priority.
Indeed, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum recently revealed he is “looking forward” to trying to add it to the club’s trophy cabinet:
“I’m really looking forward to playing in the World Cup for teams because back in the day I saw the Champions League winners play in the competition.
“What I like most is that if you win, you get a badge on your shirt. That’s something you want to achieve.
“That makes the World Cup so beautiful – [and] because you play against other teams from other parts of the world.
“You would never see them in competition, only pre-season. It’s nice to compete with those teams and see how they do it.”
However, the competition isn’t necessarily Southgate’s main agenda; first and foremost he will be in the Gulf state to prepare for England’s potential World Cup campaign in 2022.
“I’m actually going to go to Qatar to watch some of Liverpool’s games but also, it’s exactly the time [of year when] the World Cup will be played there,” Southgate said.
“So, the climate will be ideal to get a feel of and pinpoint a couple of camps that we would stay in there.
“You have to [do that]. You have to have preparation for all of those things going on. So, I’m excited to see what that’s going to look like as well.”
Despite this impressive research, Southgate was understandably coy on whether he will still be in charge of England for that competition in three years’ time, should they qualify of course.
“That will depend very much on how we get on next summer [at the European Championship],” Southgate revealed.
“When you have a week like you’ve had, you sense that people can fall out of love with you and if there isn’t a warmth for you to continue, then that can start to affect the team. So, I’m realistic about how quickly those tides can turn.
“But we’ve always planned short, mid and long term over the last eight years.
“When I started and we looked at other federations, we were almost embarrassed to go and look at where we should be preparing for. Germany were always there and they’d already secured the best bloody hotel.
“So, I think we’ve had to be a bit bolder and say ‘no, look, it’s not a jinx to go and do it’. We’ve got to have belief in what we’re doing and execute the right preparation.
“Without taking any focus off what we’re doing next summer, we’ve got to get the next bit right, otherwise we’ll be behind the curve.”