Liverpool head to the Etihad Stadium on Monday night where they face the first mouth-watering clash of the new Premier League season. Ben Twelves takes a look at how Brendan Rodgers could shape his team for the match.
Manchester City vs Liverpool, Monday 25th August 2014, 8pm
- Moreno in the squad, could make debut
- Balotelli not registered in time, won’t feature
- Markovic in squad but unlikely to start
- Allen or Can to replace Lucas?
Liverpool turn their attentions to Premier League champions Manchester City for the second game of the season, and the Reds will be determined to add to their winning start to the new campaign at the Etihad Stadium.
While Rodgers’ side exited Anfield with maximum points from the opening weekend clash against Ronald Koeman’s Saints, the performance of his’ team was not what’s come to be expected, and the Liverpool boss will know more than anyone that his side will have to improve if they want to come away with anything from the game on Monday night.
BR: We’ll go to Man City with no fear, as we’ve done before. We’ll attack the game.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) August 22, 2014
A more dynamic midfield away from the pedestrian Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard combination is an absolute must against a mobile Man City side and with Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Emre Can all options at the managers’ disposal, the Liverpool boss certainly has the numbers and quality to implement a change.
Lazar Markovic is set for a first Premier Leaue outing since his move from Benfica after recovering from a niggling injury picked up on the clubs’ USA pre-season tour and the Serbian will provide Rodgers with a welcome boost in quality for attacking areas of the pitch – something that was lacking last weekend.
Latest recruit, adventurous left back Alberto Moreno, is also in line to receive the first action of Liverpool career, as delayed paper work meant the Spaniard frustratingly wasn’t registered in time for the opening weekend match, meaning Glen Johnson once again filled the left back slot.
With Moreno fit and ready to play, the question ahead of the challenging encounter is whether he should come straight into the team in place of Johnson, who seems to be continuing on a long decline of form at Anfield.
Such is the 30 year old’s consistently poor displays that it almost seems there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by throwing Moreno in at the deep-end and handing the 21-year-old his first start for the club on Monday. The Spanish international certainly can’t be as unproductive both attacking wise and defensively, and even if he is, it will be in a complete baptism of fire fixture that he will learn quickly from under Rodgers’ guidance.
It would be a bold move admittedly and see Liverpool line up with a very new and inexperience back four in a huge fixture with three new players in the four man defensive line, and for that reason it could be argued therefore that keeping the England international in for just one more fixture should be done.
An immobile midfield of Gerrard and Lucas struggled badly and were dominated by the imposing Saints midfield and although Liverpool got away with it last Sunday, it isn’t worth the risk sticking with the ageing duo at the Etihad.
Joe Allen produced an excellent cameo display from the bench meaning he’s pushing for a start, and his as well as Emre Can’s exclusion from the starting line up in favour of Lucas certainly caused surprise amongst the vast majority of the support – myself included. The Welsh and the German midfielders’ could both come in for the two senior figures, or at the very least, Lucas makes way to accommodate either, or of the talented substitutes.
Up front, the four that occupied the attacking places in the 4-2-3-1 system deployed by Rodgers last week should all remain in the starting team, however a change of shape to a 4-3-3 could bring more fluidity to what was an uncharacteristically rigid Liverpool last weekend.
With new players available, and quality options waiting in the wings, Rodgers should make a couple of changes to his side. Liverpool won’t get away with such an immobile midfield and with Johnson’s slump never ending, Moreno too should be introduced to the starting X1. With that in mind, this is how Liverpool should line up:
Alternatively, the Liverpool boss could shape his team up like so:
If Rodgers wants to stick with the 4-2-3-1 formation, Steven Gerrard doesn’t feature, as painful as it is to say, due to his immobility and therefore inability to play as part of a two man midfield at this stage of his career:
The substitute’s bench could look something like this: Jones, Johnson Sakho, Allen, Lucas, Markovic, Lambert.
After getting the season off to a positive start, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool face a huge task in recording back to back wins on Monday night, but it’s a feat the team certainly are capable of producing.
BR: The title is decided over the course of the 38 games, not just the big games like Monday’s. But the aim is to perform and win.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) August 22, 2014
An improved performance will be needed, as Rodgers well knows, and if Liverpool do play to their maximum, there’s every chance the Reds can return to Merseyside with three more points and a huge signal of intent for the season ahead.