Predicting Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool XI for Merseyside Derby

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Liverpool take on their nearest and dearest on Saturday, as they host Everton in the first derby of the season. Ben Twelves takes a look at the team selection options for Brendan Rodgers ahead of the derby.

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After stumbling past Middlesbrough thanks to an epic penalty shootout win on Tuesday night, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool team turn their attentions towards the small matter of the first Merseyside derby of the season.

The Liverpool boss rung the changes for the League Cup match and it was reflected in another largely poor collective performance, as the Reds made hard work of overcoming the Championship side. There were a small number of positives however, namely the debuts of Jordans Rossiter and Williams who both registered on the score-sheet.

With Liverpool’s inability to create clear cut goal scoring opportunities and defend convincingly so far this early season, performances have caused an element of concern throughout the fan base. Rodgers and his team will be thankful however, that previous form and displays in the run up to the game tend to count for nothing heading into the frenetic derby clashes.

Both teams will be hoping that the game provides the perfect platform to build upon with the two clubs currently sat in the bottom half of the Premier League, but defences at either end as well as Liverpool’s attack will have to improve in order for that to happen.

The Team

The game will see Rodgers once again make wholesale changes as he did on Tuesday, with only four players who played in the 3-1 defeat at West Ham, beginning the match against Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough.

That means the Liverpool boss is likely to recall Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli to the starting team, but there’s question marks over the availability of Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge for the game with all three players in a race against time to be fit.

While Rodgers waits on the fitness of those three, Glen Johnson, Jon Flanagan, Emre Can and Joe Allen are all ruled out through on-going injuries and will miss the grudge match.

The Northern Irishman will have a choice to make with the formation of his team, but that could very much depend on the recovery and availability of the key players ahead of the game.

A midfield diamond shape would be the preferred option if Sturridge, Henderson and Coutinho do recover but with England striker likely to only make the bench even if fit enough, the most likely option for the Liverpool boss is to play 4-3-3, providing then that Henderson and Coutinho recover in time – which looks a possibility from the training pictures.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - Monday, August 25, 2014: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho Correia and Daniel Sturridge look dejected as Manchester City score the opening goal during the Premier League match at the City of Manchester Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If the worst case scenario came to fruition however, and Henderson and Coutinho do miss the match, Liverpool face the prospect of playing with the dreaded midfield pairing of Gerrard and Lucas. It would potentially mean a continuation of the 2 man midfield in the 4-2-3-1 shape, something the Reds have looked very uncomfortable playing in.

Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Raheem Sterling could continue to occupy the 3 spaces if none of the recovering players make it in time for the match and Rodgers is forced into a 2 man midfield, and those three players would play as the ‘3’ supporting Balotelli as the lone striker.

 

The Line Up

If the players that the Liverpool manager is waiting on make it in time for the match, the starting team should look like this on Saturday:

IMG_0640

If all three touch-and-go players fail to recover in enough time, and the worst case scenario happens, Liverpool could start like this:

IMG_0641

However, projecting that Henderson and Coutinho are fit enough to play though Sturridge isn’t as seems most likely, Liverpool should line up in a 4-3-3 shape starting like so:

IMG_0642

A win in the derby is exactly the type of fixture that could transform the early season on pitch struggles and ooze confidence into both the set-up and those players struggling to adapt to the ‘weight’ of the shirt as Rodgers has alluded to recently.

If ever there’s a time for the new look Liverpool to spark into life, Saturday afternoon is it.

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