Richard Buxton: Klopp’s caution hints at Liverpool's EPL quest
Liverpool manager may regret sacrificing domestic cup challenges after opting to rest key players in FA Cup loss to Wolves for league games
Fortitude, rather than finances, still defines the gulf between Liverpool and Manchester City.
One aim to sweep all before them, while the other take a Sophie's Choice approach to silverware.
Juergen Klopp opted for the latter as his side unceremoniously bowed out of the FA Cup's third round with a 2-1 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday morning (Singapore time).
In truth, the current English Premier League leaders were beaten from the second that their teamsheet was revealed at Molineux. Everyone knew what was set to come, including the Reds manager himself.
Forsaking the FA Cup at the first hurdle is hardly uncharted territory for Klopp, having presided over fourth-round exits in each of his three previous seasons in the Anfield hot seat.
The world's most famous domestic cup competition has been little more than a passing fancy. There have always been bigger fish to fry; be it a latter-stage Champions League run or EPL title tilt.
Only the most ardent traditionalist would greet the German's conciliatory approach with anything other a shrug. It is currently a distraction that Liverpool really could do without.
Their eyes are fixated on a greater prize than the one they last won in 2006. Nothing else matters beyond ending the club's agonising 29-year wait to be crowned English champions.
But even that calculated gamble may not pay dividends when all is said and done.
Leading from the front threatens to again sit uncomfortably on Liverpool, with a previously sizeable points margin trimmed in the wake of last week's defeat at the Etihad Stadium.
City continue to underline why Klopp's all-or-nothing approach is somewhat misplaced.
Where the Liverpool manager made nine changes for their latest and short-lived FA Cup travails, Pep Guardiola persisted with that same number of players from his strongest line-up.
The Catalan turned to the likes of Ederson, John Stones and Raheem Sterling to lead the charge in a 7-0 win over Rotherham United.
His refusal to accept half-measures is why they also stand just 180 minutes away from retaining their League Cup crown.
Conversely, Klopp still prefers to broach cup competitions with a convoluted mix of fringe players and callow youth.
Only James Milner, Xherdan Shaqiri and Dejan Lovren constituted regular starters at Wolves, with the latter included out of necessity rather than choice.
He sent on Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for 20-minute cameos in attempts to turn the tide after the visitors had again been trailing at Molineux over the previous quarter of an hour.
The pair's introductions felt as halfhearted as they had initially appeared honourable.
Attempts to limit the toil on Liverpool's big hitters expose an underlying vulnerability.
For all the talk of a more rounded squad, the risk of injury remains a paralysing fear.
Lovren's early withdrawal risks seeing them depleted to just one established central defender this weekend.
Should a similar fate befall Salah or Virgil van Dijk, a season which has promised so much may devolve into yet another inglorious chapter in Anfield's history of title-chasing woe.
High stakes and mounting pressure are nothing new for Liverpool. They have stared it down many times before but ultimately blinked first.
Klopp's caution attempts to guard against it.
Only at the end of the current campaign will vindicate his judgement. City may have already sewn up the title before then by continuing to play at full tilt.