Liverpool’s lengthy injury list is finally being reduced as key players return to fitness – bringing with it healthy selection dilemmas for manager Brendan Rodgers.
Steven Gerrard returned to the side last week against Stoke to make his first Premier League start since injury in early December and Daniel Sturridge came off the bench to return from six weeks on the sidelines.
Centre-back Mamadou Sakho is back available for the match against Aston Villa on Saturday, as is midfielder Joe Allen.
UPDATE: Sakho is NOT fit for the match, this was wrongly reported by Liverpool Echo and Physio Room.
Sakho has been missing since picking up a hamstring strain in the defeat at Chelsea, while Allen was also injured in the same game. Both had been enjoying their best form of the season up until injury.
With Rodgers explaining how he intends to use Gerrard in a deeper, holding midfield role, Allen’s return could be bad news for Lucas Leiva – who was used in a more advanced role than usual for the Brazilian against Stoke.
Lucas would be the one to make way for Allen, lining up ahead of Gerrard alongside Jordan Henderson in Liverpool’s midfield triangle.
Sakho would be likely to replace Kolo Toure in defence. The Ivorian partnered Martin Skrtel at Stoke but was forced to move to his less familiar left side of defence in the absence of Sakho and Daniel Agger.
Rodgers will be keen to get the balance back in his defence and so Sakho partnering Skrtel seems the most likely option – especially as the two of them had seemingly become Rodgers preferred partnership prior to Sakho’s injury.
Meanwhile, Sturridge’s return means Philippe Coutinho‘s place in the side is under threat. The Brazilian has been off form of late and looks the more likely to drop out rather than in-form Raheem Sterling.
That would mean a rather menacing front three of Sterling, Sturridge and Luis Suarez – as they were for the final 25 minutes at Stoke.
Possible LFC line-up vs Villa:
That line-up would mean Allen, Sakho and Sturridge replacing Lucas, Toure and Coutinho from the side that started at the Britannia last time out. Three positive changes to provide balance to the side?
Of course, Rodgers may opt not to risk Sturridge from the start, and instead have him as a rather exciting substitute to use again.
Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique remain sidelined, although both could return at the end of the month.
Liverpool provisional squad: Mignolet, Johnson, Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho, Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson, Sterling, Sturridge, Suarez, Coutinho, Jones, Kelly, Sakho, Alberto, Aspas, Ibe.
Let us know which line-up you’d use against Villa in the comments below.