Liverpool lineup options vs Bolton: Rodgers to rotate but not heavily?

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Liverpool host Bolton Wanderers at Anfield late Saturday afternoon as the Reds make a return to FA Cup action for their second fixture of the competition. Ben Twelves takes a look at the numerous team selection options available to the Liverpool manager.

KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES, ENGLAND - Monday, January 5, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard celebrates scoring the second goal against AFC Wimbledon during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at the Kingsmeadow Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In a busy week of cup competition football for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, the Reds turn their attentions to the FA Cup on Saturday evening as they host Championship side Bolton in the fourth round.

Rodgers’ side had to overcome a testing fixture against League Two battlers Wimbledon in the last round and the Liverpool boss will be hoping for a more straightforward evening than 19 days ago where Steven Gerrard’s excellent brace rescued the Reds and ensured no cup embarrassment would materialise.

KINGSTON-UPON-THAMES, ENGLAND - Monday, January 5, 2015: Liverpool's captain Steven Gerrard scores the second goal against AFC Wimbledon during the FA Cup 3rd Round match at the Kingsmeadow Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Reds continue their recovery and progression after the dismal first half of the season with Rodgers’ side growing game by game. Liverpool will need to display their new-found confidence and produce a strong display again on Saturday to move into round five, as it promises to be a tricky fixture against Neil Lennon’s men – who arrive full of confidence themselves having lost just once in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

With Liverpool facing a hectic and demanding fixture list next month, the matter of the winner-takes-all second leg against Chelsea in just three days’ time and another vitally important Premier League fixture to come when West Ham visit Anfield, the match against the Trotters provides the perfect opportunity to rest certain players ahead of the challenging period and that is what Rodgers must do.

 

The Team

The match is set to come too early for Daniel Sturridge and Brad Jones is missing once more, but Rodgers could welcome back Glen Johnson, Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen and Mario Balotelli to the fold as all are now available having returned to full training this week.

Rodgers stated in his pre-match press conference that changes are likely, but one of those who won’t feature is returned loan star Jordon Ibe, who is frustratingly cup-tied having featured for Derby in round three. Jordan Rossiter is set to be involved however, and fellow prospects Jordan Williams and Sheyi Ojo – who have both had first team involvement this season – will also be hopeful of inclusion in the match-day squad.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Liverpool's Jordan Rossiter celebrates scoring the first goal against Middlesbrough on his debut during the Football League Cup 3rd Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s vitally important that Rodgers makes a number of changes to allow for rest for key players ahead of the all-important return leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, and the Liverpool boss could give a number of first choice options the afternoon off such as Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Lazar Markovic, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling.

Leaving those players out allows the Northern Irishman to hand match action to players who have seen opportunities limited such as Javier Manquillo, Jose Enrique, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini in addition to the four returnees, and Rodgers has a wealth of options ahead of him which he must make full use of.

 

The Line Up

Rotation is a certainty for Saturday’s fixture, but the big question is over how heavily Rodgers should alter his XI. The ideal answer would be that the Reds boss makes as many changes as possible, and by doing so that should see just five of those who have played consistently in recent weeks keep their places in the team – Simon Mignolet, Martin Skrtel, Mamadou Sakho, Emre Can and Steven Gerrard.

Johnson, Manquillo, Allen, Enrique, Lallana and Borini should be the names taking the six vacated shirts, and introducing those into the starting XI should see Liverpool line up looking like this late Saturday afternoon:

Bolton line up 1

Alternatively, the Liverpool manager – as suggested in his media-conference – could choose to deploy a less rotated XI retaining most of the spine of the team that has seen an upturn in performances to help maintain the current momentum.

Making a slightly fewer number of alterations to his starting team and keeping a more familiar look, I expect Liverpool to line up looking like this:

Bolton line up 2

While a game the Reds should comfortably win, it’s important Rodgers’ men don’t underestimate the ex-Premier League side – who will arrive with former favourite Emile Heskey – and ensure that the job is done professionally, without complications to allow for a smoother journey into the fifth round than the previous stage and to concentrate on Tuesday’s huge encounter.

SELECT YOUR LINEUP BELOW:

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