How Brendan Rodgers Might Shape Liverpool For Crystal Palace

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Brendan Rodgers faces a second consecutive home game where he will be forced to make changes to his team. Ben Twelves discusses the options for Rodgers ahead of Liverpool’s clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - Sunday, September 29, 2013: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers and assistant manager Colin Pascoe on the bench before the Premiership match against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

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With the threat of wasting all of their early season good work hanging over them due to consecutive defeats, Liverpool produced a solid if unspectacular display to return to winning ways at the Stadium of Light. The much anticipated return to Premier League football for Luis Suarez saw him reunited with Daniel Sturridge and the SAS partnership didn’t disappoint in the slightest, with both players registering on the score-sheet and Sturridge claiming assists for both of his strike partners’ goals, in our 3-1 away win.

All of a sudden, the situation looks far healthier than it did a week ago. The win has moved Liverpool back up to second in the table, despite us not having performed anywhere near our true capabilities in the first six games and also missing some key players due to injury. With three very winnable games looming up for us before we face a tough fixture away at Arsenal, capitalising while we have the chance, much like we did last weekend at Sunderland, is an absolute must if we are to fight for a Champions League place.

However, for the second home game in a row, Brendan Rodgers is going into the match with a selection dilemma having previously played the same team two games on the bounce. Last time out at Anfield it was a question of who would come into replace the Brazilian magician Philippe Coutinho but this time round as we prepare to host newly promoted Crystal Palace, it’s a case of who will come in for his fellow countryman, (and that is where the similarities end) Lucas Leiva. This will be the one forced change of personnel for Rodgers but it would be no surprise if we were to see at least one other along with it.

Change of shape

The 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation (depending on which way you look at it) has worked quite well in the two games that it has been deployed, although it is blatantly obvious that there is still the ongoing issue with the midfield area that will see an overdue re-shuffle on Saturday. Lucas being unavailable for selection this weekend is good for two reasons. 1: He gets the rest he has desperately needed and 2: His performances at times have proven to be more of a hindrance than help to the team.

Lucas Suspended

With Lucas being out, we get the chance to add some much needed mobility to the midfield and for that reason, it seems logical to move Jordan Henderson from his unorthodox right wing-back role and into his more natural habitat in the centre of the pitch. The right wing-back position is the place in the team that we have struggled to adapt to most since the change in shape, due to not having the right style of cover, for the heavily missed Glen Johnson. Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom aren’t adventurous enough to play there so Rodgers could hand a first league start to Raheem Sterling to fill the gap.

Bring Agger back?

The other potential change for the match could be in the back three. Daniel Agger was on the bench for the trip to Sunderland last week as he returns from a freak injury and if he is fit, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he was to replace Martin Skrtel in the central role with Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho either side, giving Rodgers what would be his preferred defensive unit. Martin Skrtel hasn’t done much wrong at all since he returned to the starting eleven but his potentially continued inclusion, ahead of what is widely believed to be the managers’ first choice options, will only create more confusion over the summer activity.

The starting line-up against Palace could look like this with the two changes of Agger for Skrtel and Sterling for Lucas:

im1

However, as stated, Martin Skrtel hasn’t done anything wrong since he has been reintroduced to the starting eleven and for that reason I expect him to continue in the team, meaning Brendan Rodgers could pick a team on Saturday that looks like this:

im2

In a game that Liverpool are expected to dominate, a change back to the more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation is another option for the Northern Irishman although it does seem unlikely.  This could see Toure moved further out to right full-back, Jose Enrique dropped to left back and Henderson again moved centrally alongside the captain. Raheem could come into the side on the right with Victor Moses moving back out to the left and Suarez dropping slightly into the Coutinho role, off the front man, being Sturridge. Alternatively, Rodgers could opt to give Iago Aspas some more minutes in English football by playing him on the left, switching Moses to the right and keeping Raheem Sterling on the bench.

If Rodgers does choose to revisit a 4-2-3-1 shape, the team could look like so:

im3

The games against the ‘smaller’ clubs in the league is where Liverpool have come unstuck far too often over the years and failing to capitalise on results going in our favour has almost come to be expected. But with a new look Liverpool who are now showing they are capable of winning games in more ways than one and breaking bad habits of the past, what better time to shake off another one starting Saturday?

Ben Twelves

Let us know what team you’d select for Saturday in the comments below.

Liverpool v Crystal Palace – Read all our pre-match analysis and debate here

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