Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool face Aston Villa on Saturday evening as they return to Premier League action. Ben Twelves takes a look at an interesting team selection choice for the Liverpool boss.
The Reds return to Anfield for the first time since the opening weekend success over Southampton, looking to record back-to-back wins at the second attempt this early campaign against third placed Aston Villa.
Saturday’s game will see the Liverpool manager forced into making at least one change to his starting side, with Daniel Sturridge frustratingly returning from the dreaded international duty injured and he is subsequently ruled out of action for a few weeks as a result.
There are question marks too over Joe Allen’s availability for the game after the Welsh midfielder also reported back to Melwood from international duty with an ankle problem after playing in Wales 2-1 win in Andorra on a terrible 3G, Powerleague-style surface.
BR: Emre Can could be out for up to six weeks with an ankle injury. Joe Allen has an issue with his knee, both from international duty.
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) September 11, 2014
Injury misery continues to pile up for Rodgers, with Emre Can becoming the third victim of the international fixtures, where he picked up an ankle injury that is set to rule the versatile German out for up to six weeks.
Away from the bad news with injuries, Jordan Henderson looks set to be available to continue in midfield after playing the full 90 minutes against Switzerland, despite limping out of England training last Sunday after landing awkwardly on his ankle.
More good news comes from Rodgers confirming that Adam Lallana is fit to play after a frustrating start to life on Merseyside has yet to see him make an appearance for the club, but it could be a little too early for the former Southampton man – who is sure to be short of match sharpness – to be involved from the start
Fabio Borini could also find himself involved with the squad despite the Italian having looked completely out of the reckoning at Anfield, particularly if Rodgers decides to continue with the 4-diamond midfield-2 formation.
LFC's PL record with a diamond midfield since 2009/10
P9 W8 D1 L0 F30 A10
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) September 10, 2014
The back five is set to remain unchanged from the defensive line the kept a clean sheet at White Hart Lane in the last league fixture and that would see Javier Manquillo line up at right back with Dejan Lovren partnering Mamadou Sakho in the centre of defence and Alberto Moreno continuing at left back.
With Henderson seemingly fit for the match Rodgers is likely to stick with the England international and he is likely to be joined by Steven Gerrard but with Allen’s fitness to be assessed in the lead up to the match, Philippe Coutinho could come into the side in a preferred central midfield position.
There are choices to be made for the positions at the top of the diamond and up front with Sturridge unavailable.
Raheem Sterling operated centrally behind the England striker and Mario Balotelli to devastating effect in north London, but with the recently turned 25-year-old out and Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini as the next genuine striking options, Rodgers could opt to play Sterling himself higher up as an unorthodox forward alongside the £16million Italian.
Pushing Sterling into the two man forward line would free up the space at the tip of the diamond – a position that could be filled by Coutinho if Allen does recover to keep his place in midfield – or the fitter Lazar Markovic to make his first Liverpool start, over the returning Lallana who should begin on the bench.
Alternatively, Rodgers could of course choose to keep Sterling where he is excelling and hand Lambert the first start of his Liverpool career alongside Balotelli or even play Borini alongside his fellow countryman creating a lively and mobile partnership.
The possibilities for Rodgers are almost limitless ahead of the clash. But if he does decide to stick to the 4-diamond midfield-2, this is how Liverpool should start the match on Saturday:
Another option for the Reds manager in this shape would be:
Alternatively, the Liverpool boss could opt to utilise the explosiveness and skill within his squad and name an extremely exciting starting team that looks something like this:
Liverpool’s excellent summer transfer window of recruiting quantity and quality was carried out to afford Rodgers the luxury of having many talented players and formations at his disposal.
Last year an injury to a forward had us talking Aspas, Alberto and Moses. Now we're talking Markovic, Lallana, Coutinho and Borini.
— Matt Ladson (@mattladson) September 6, 2014
The Reds’ boss faces a tough decision ahead of the match over whether to start with the diamond formation that has worked so well, or the possibility of reverting back to a 4-3-3.