After a 15 day break, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool return to Premier League action on Sunday afternoon when they head south to take on Neil Warnock’s struggling Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
The respite since the defeat to Chelsea will have given the Reds time to regroup, but all positive feeling ahead of a big effort to turn the season around over the upcoming fixtures has been lost, following the news that Daniel Sturridge is now out for a further six weeks after frustratingly breaking down once again in training, at a time where his return looked imminent.
The news comes a huge blow to Rodgers who would have been hoping that the England striker’s return could inspire a turnaround of results, but his side will now have to do it the hard way and without their most prized asset available for an absolutely crucial part of the season.
Liverpool are on a miserable run of three straight losses in all competitions and having shown an incredible amount of faith in certain players for the visit of Chelsea but once again losing at Anfield – overlooking those impressive performers in Madrid – Rodgers will be under big pressure to change something within his team’s set up on Sunday to grab a desperately needed three points.
Little has changed on the injury front for Rodgers, with Sturridge, Jon Flanagan, Mamadou Sakho and Suso all still unavailable and all eyes will be on his team selection for the third match in a row after those players he showed such faith in slumped to another defeat at Anfield last time out.
With pressure mounting on the Liverpool boss, changes to the team are now something that can no longer be ignored and must be implemented with immediate effect.
With that in mind, Kolo Toure will certainly be hoping for a recall having unfairly made way for Chelsea’s visit as will Javier Manquillo, and Lucas Leiva too will be hopeful that Rodgers drops his blind faith in underperforming players and hands him a chance.
Rodgers has plenty of midfield options available now Jordan Henderson has been declared fit to play, but there is a battle for spaces with Emre Can, Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Philippe Coutinho all hopeful of being trusted with a starting place.
Adam Lallana and Lazark Markovic haven’t featured much recently, but both will be looking to be trusted in the attacking midfield areas though they face a battle to start, as they continue to struggle to make an impact since arriving in the summer.
Rodgers says Rickie Lambert will "feature heavily" in games coming up. Balotelli fitness to be assessed before Palace game.
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) November 21, 2014
In attack, it’s a different story for the Liverpool boss with Mario Balotelli set to be assessed ahead of the clash. Therefore Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert will be hopeful of being handed an opportunity to perform – with Rodgers saying Lambert could feature – but with both as well as Liverpool’s £16million Italian struggling for form, playing Raheem Sterling as a striker could be a better option.
Rodgers on strikers: "I have great trust in the players. I would be more concerned if they were moping around or didn't care."
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) November 21, 2014
The Line Up
The time has come for Rodgers to finally end his persistence with under performers, and for that reason there should be two changes to the dysfunctional back four – those being that Javier Manquillo and Kolo Toure should come into the defence ahead of Glen Johnson and Dejan Lovren.
The current situation means that the Liverpool manager has to revisit what works best, and that, as everyone knows, is the diamond shaped midfield. Gerrard should sit at the bottom, with the energetic pairing of Henderson and Can ahead of him to compete in the physical midfield battle.
Philippe Coutinho should occupy the position at the tip of the midfield shape in behind a strike pairing of Balotelli, if fit, and Raheem Sterling in the Liverpool attack.
Those changes to the side should see Liverpool’s first choice line up look like this on Sunday afternoon:
However, Rodgers has hinted pre-match that Lambert could be set for more minutes, despite Borini playing himself above the 32-year-old in the pecking order – and if so, he should into the line up alongside the mobile Sterling rather than cutting an isolated and lonely figure like Balotelli.
That slight alteration would mean this would be the team:
Rodgers continues to favour the unsuited 4-2-3-1 formation for reasons unknown though, and with that, this is how I’d expect Liverpool to line up on Sunday afternoon – providing Balotelli is fit or if Lambert comes in to replace the Italian:
The bold and brave changes can no longer be ignored, and Rodgers must make them to his underperforming team in order to spark a transformation in fortunes on the pitch, as Liverpool enter an absolutely crucial part of the season.
Rodgers: "It is my responsibility as manager to get results. Players are giving me absolutely everything."
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) November 21, 2014
Performances and results have to change quickly before those ahead pull away and out of sight, and despite the fixture being a tough one as always for the Reds at the atmospheric Selhurst Park, Sunday presents the perfect chance for the revival to begin.