Predicting the Liverpool lineup vs Sunderland: To rest Gerrard or not?

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Liverpool host Sunderland at Anfield on Saturday as they begin another busy week in the fixture schedule meaning Brendan Rodgers will have to rotate his side once again. Ben Twelves takes a look at some of the options available to the Liverpool manager.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 2, 2014: Liverpool's Adam Lallana celebrates scoring the first equalising goal against Leicester City during the Premier League match at Filbert Way. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

 

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool return to Anfield looking to make it three wins a week when they take on struggling Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, before the much anticipated make or break encounter against Basel.

After a desperately poor period of form, The Reds have improved in the results department at least as they currently sit three games unbeaten in all competitions, but performances still remain far from the vintage Liverpool we have been used to seeing as points are the ultimate priority at this moment in time.

Overcoming a tough Stoke side last weekend and a battling Leicester on Tuesday night will certainly have provided an extremely welcome confidence boost to a fragile squad, and it’s important for Rodgers and his team continue to grind out results until the confident and dominant displays we want to see return.

Sunderland arrive for the game off the back of a 4-1 hammering against title chasing Manchester City on Wednesday night, but with the fixture set to be the fourth in 10 days for Liverpool and with big games to follow in the Champions League before a trip to Old Trafford next Sunday, the Reds manager will certainly have to rotate his squad heavily in order to preserve certain players’ fitness for the testing games ahead.

 

The Team

With little changing on the injury front and Mario Balotelli still out, Rodgers is set to have the same squad at his disposal as for the last four matches, though Mamadou Sakho’s imminent return to full fitness could see the French international welcomed back to the squad despite the unlikelihood of game time.

Another week consisting of three fixtures means the Liverpool boss will have to make numerous changes for each game and there are a number of decisions to call for the visit of Gus Poyet’s team.

Steven Gerrard came back into the starting XI in midweek after the majority of the weekend off, and it showed as the Liverpool captain produced a much better performance – registering on the score-sheet in the process.

But if one thing has been learnt from the rested and revitalised skipper, it’s that this level of management is the way forward and therefore he should drop back to bench for Saturday’s clash where he should be used if and when needed with Joe Allen, Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho all potential starting candidates.

Plenty of other players could do with a well-earned rest too, including Lucas Leiva and Rickie Lambert who have made the extreme transition of being underused to overused – both completing three and four 90 minutes in a row and that feat means they need a break.

Raheem Sterling looks jaded due to the weight of expectation that he’s found himself under despite his improved recent form, and even though it may be slightly idealistic with Liverpool needing as many of their best players available to continue moving forwards slowly, he could do with a match among the substitutes with Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Coutinho alternative options.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 2, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling in action against Leicester City's Paul Konchesky during the Premier League match at Filbert Way. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure have all featured heavily in the Reds back four, and Rodgers should make changes as best as possible – particularly in full-back positions – to ensure the majority of the squad stay as fresh as they can.

 

The Line Up

Periods of fixtures in quick succession is about finding the balance between rotating and remaining competitive and Rodgers has a tough job ahead of a demanding week.

However, bringing the energetic Alberto Moreno into the back four from the start will allow Glen Johnson to make way and in midfield both Lucas and Gerrard can drop to the bench with Emre Can and Joe Allen available to come in.

In attack, Sterling could make way for Philippe Coutinho to start but such is Lambert’s improved form and Fabio Borini’s questionable whereabouts, the England striker should retain his place in the starting team, but the Italian must feature on the bench to allow for change as soon as possible.

In a 4-3-3 shape, Liverpool should line up like this on Saturday:

Sunderland 4-3-3

Alternatively, it could be a wise time to bring Borini back into the starting XI against his former club to allow for the nippy 23-year-old’s work-rate and tenacity alongside the tiring Lambert in attack. Therefore Rodgers should consider a return to the diamond formation:

Sunderland diamond

However, in keeping with the Liverpool manager’s favoured 4-2-3-1, this is how I’d expect Liverpool to look come 3pm Saturday:

Sunderland 4-2-3-1

Another challenging week of three tough fixtures awaits Brendan Rodgers’s slowly improving Liverpool side and with The Reds making small steps on their road to recovery after a dreadful start, it’s important not to lose focus.

Saturday’s game poses a tricky fixture for Rodgers and his team against Sunderland with so many factors to take into consideration ahead of two more crunch fixtures, but following back-to-back wins and an increased confidence, Liverpool must take full advantage of a perfect chance to make it three in a row.

Would you rest Gerrard – and indeed Lucas – with Basel just three days after Sunderland?

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