If reports in the media today are to prove true, Liverpool’s new signings and squad players are to be given the biggest opportunity to impress against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu tonight.
Reports suggest Brendan Rodgers is considering resting key players for the Champions League match; most notably captain Steven Gerrard and teenager Raheem Sterling.
Others who could be watching from the bench or stands include Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren.
Rumoured teams on social media today feature fringe players Kolo Toure, Fabio Borini and Lucas Leiva, with new signings Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Rickie Lambert also getting a starting berth – depending who you believe.
Regardless of what the final starting 11 actually is, it’s clear Rodgers is going to rotate his squad and rest key players.
New signings Can and Markovic, both only aged 20 lets remember, will have the biggest stage to prove their worth after their £10 million and £20 million arrivals respectively this summer.
Can has only started two games for Liverpool so far; due in part to injury and also Gerrard playing every Premier League and Champions League game so far this campaign. An impressive performance from Can could lead to further questions over Gerrard’s future at the club, or at least the role which he plays in the side.
Can though may end up having to watch on if Rodgers opts to pair Lucas alongside Jordan Henderson in midfield. Can the Brazilian step up on such a huge stage?
Markovic, meanwhile, has started five games for Liverpool this season and failed to shine so far. Often looking weak and devoid of confidence in front of goal. His pace though could prove effective on the counter attack and pushing back Madrid’s full-backs. Big players rise to the occasion, can Markovic do so too?
When Sterling was given a start in a central role at Old Trafford earlier this year it raised a few eyebrows initially but he took the opportunity, shone and played superbly in that role throughout the rest of the 2013/14 season, becoming the driving force behind the Reds’ title challenge.
Markovic needs to do what Sterling did.
And, if indeed Rickie Lambert does start, it’s literally a boyhood dream – playing for Liverpool at the Bernabeu! One area in which Madrid are susceptible are in the air, Lambert could actually cause them more problems than Balotelli would (certainly more than in the home match anyway).
Lambert could also help defending set pieces.
Toure’s presence in defence should add something Liverpool are severely lacking lately; leadership. He was certainly the organiser and leader last week against Swansea but can the partnership with Martin Skrtel really work?
There’s a lot of questions and only by 6.30pm tonight will be know the lineup. And only by shortly after 9.30pm will we know how successful it was.
Rodgers is certainly gambling, but with a win even with a strongest eleven appearing slim, there is perhaps a feeling of ‘why not’ about fielding a weakened team. That and rightly prioritising the league.
Truth is, it’s about time others stepped up in Gerrard’s absence.
Either way, we should learn a lot about Rodgers and certain players tonight.