Preston North End: Sepp van den Berg on the launch of his Liverpool career in 10-goal Carabao Cup clash
Sepp van den Berg will be hoping to see action in Preston North End’s clash with Mansfield Town in the Carabao Cup, a competition he has some decent memories of.
The Dutch teenager was a second-half substitute in Saturday’s 4-1 defeat to Hull City, so could well get a start at Field Mill as PNE head coach Frankie McAvoy looks at the different options available to him.
Van den Berg’s first taste of senior action at parent club Liverpool came in the Carabao Cup.
His debut came from the bench in a 2-0 extra-time win at MK Dons.
The defender’s first start was in a crazy 5-5 draw in the next round against Arsenal, one settled in the Reds’ favour on penalties.
Then while Liverpool’s first-team squad were away competing in the World Club Championship, Van den Berg was in a young side which bowed out of the tournament 5-0 at Aston Villa.
Hence the 19-year-old attaches a lot of importance to the Mansfield game as PNE aim to get back on the straight and narrow after the Hull drubbing.
“My first games for Liverpool were in the Carabao Cup,” Van den Berg told the Lancashire Post.
“I played the Arsenal 5-5 draw, then the Aston Villa game with the young guys while the first-team was in Qatar.
“The 5-5 against Arsenal at Anfield was my first start.
“I clearly remember the game, it was crazy and we won it on penalties.
“Fortunately I didn’t have to take a penalty, Curtis Jones scored to win and I was safe! I was shaking a little bit during the shoot-out so it was good I didn’t have to take a penalty.
“The Carabao Cup is a good competition, we want to win at Mansfield and be better than we were in the loss against Hull.”
After a run of starts from late February onwards last season, it was bench duty to start with for Van den Berg in the Hull game.
He had been used as a centre-back in many of the pre-season friendlies, that his preferred position after extensively playing right wing-back last season.
PNE head coach Frankie McAvoy went with Jordan Storey, Liam Lindsay and Andrew Hughes in the middle against the Tigers, with Tom Barkhuizen at right wing-back.
Van den Berg got the nod to come on at half-time as McAvoy switched to 4-4-2, the former PEC Zwolle man given the right-back role.
Reflecting on positions and where he feels most at home, Van den Berg said: “It was good to play as a centre-half in pre-season, I prefer playing there.
“On Saturday it was back to being a right-back which was still good.
“Hopefully I can play some league games in the centre of defence, but as long as I’m playing I’m happy.”
Van den Berg has been on loan at PNE since February 1, coming initially as part of the deal which took Ben Davies in the other direction to Liverpool.
He had a new experience at the weekend, playing in front of fans at Deepdale.
It was behind-closed-doors football for him last season, so Saturday’s game felt very different – indeed so much better despite the poor result.
Said Van den Berg: “I was used to playing at Deepdale with no one in.
“To feel the atmosphere when the teams came out on to the pitch and when we scored, was brilliant.
“Hopefully I will be seeing them many more times and we can get better results for the fans.”
With Van den Berg sat on the bench for the first half against Hull, he had a good view of where things went wrong for North End.
It started well enough, Emil Riis giving them an eighth-minute lead.
They got pressed back after that though, Hull equalising 10 minutes before half-time.
The half-time tactical and system change saw a strong start to the second half but Hull were to go 2-1 up in the 63rd minute and heads dropped after that, the visitors scoring twice more in the latter stages.
Van den Berg said: “It was a hard result to take because in the first game of the season you want to win, play nice football and good football.
“You have to respect Hull, they played very well.
“The first half didn’t work out how it should have done once we took the lead.
“From the side of the pitch it is so much easier to see what might be going wrong than when you are out there playing.
“The guys on the pitch were saying afterwards that they knew something was wrong but it is hard to change in play.
“We changed at half-time and we were better for 10 to 15 minutes of the second half.
“I thought we were driving at them and pushing forward but then their second goal killed us. Heads dropped after that.”
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