Liverpool enter Thursday’s fixture against LASK knowing a win will see them qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The Reds are strong favourites to make it four wins from five in the competition. Should Toulouse fail to beat Union Saint-Gilloise in the other match in Group E, a victory for Jürgen Klopp’s side will guarantee them top spot in the group, advancing them to the last 16 phase and avoiding a potentially energy-sapping preliminary knockout fixture.

Klopp is expected to make some changes to the team that earned a creditable draw away at Manchester City last Saturday. One enforced change will be between the sticks following first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s injury late on at the Etihad.  

The spotlight will now be on Caoimhín Kelleher as he deputises for the imperious Brazilian in what is traditionally a hectic period of the year.

Alisson is expected to miss a minimum of two weeks’ competitive action after sustaining a hamstring injury. This should see Kelleher start at least the next five games, potentially even extending to the crunch ties against Manchester United and Arsenal in late December. 

This run represents a rare opportunity for the Irishman to impress over a longer period than he is used to. He has never started more than three matches consecutively for his club, having to rely on cup competitions, injury and suspension for game time. 

Despite having made just 26 first team appearances, the 25-year-old has already won more penalty shoot-outs than any goalkeeper in Liverpool’s 131-year history. He quickly displaced the experienced Adrián as second-choice following his fledgling appearances for the Reds and has a Champions League clean sheet to his name.  

Kelleher’s calmness and ability to deliver at the ball-playing aspects of the game sought by his manager were apparent early on in his career. Following his heroics in his side’s victorious 2022 EFL Cup campaign, Klopp described him as ‘the best number two goalie in the world’. 

After such a glowing endorsement, it seemed inevitable that his patience as an understudy would wear thin. Rumours of a £30 million price tag circulated last summer amid apparent interest from Spurs, Brighton and Brentford. Despite needing a cash injection to fund their midfield rebuild, Liverpool stuck firm and their number 62 stayed put.  

With an extended period in the side now guaranteed, the pressure is on the Republic of Ireland international to find his best form.


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♬ UEFA Europa League Anthem – UEFA & MassiveMusic

But, after such a successful and illustrious start to his career, things have looked a little shaky of late. He conceded four goals in an admittedly ‘on the beach’ type fixture against relegated Southampton in May, whilst questions have been raised over his culpability in some conceded goals and rash defensive moments in this year’s Europa League. 

Kelleher suffers in comparison to Alisson in terms of sheer physical presence, but with the Brazilian’s performances having been so good for so long, he now has to try his best to compete with something altogether less corporeal – the idea of a goalkeeper’s ‘aura’.

Comparisons have been made between Becker and legendary Manchester United stopper Peter Schmeichel. Both intimidated opposition strikers with their decisiveness off the line and ability to ‘fill the goal’. With Liverpool’s high line relying on this style of goalkeeping as the ultimate last resort, they may well find out over the next few weeks whether or not they truly do possess the ‘best number two goalie in the world’.