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Blackburn 0-1 Liverpool: Three questions answered

Following Liverpool’s FA Cup win over Blackburn, Jamie Casey poses three questions and answers ahead of the final stages of the season.

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 8, 2015: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers congratulates Dejan Lovren after their 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers during the FA Cup 6th Round Quarter-Final Replay match at Ewood Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Is a flat-back four the way forward?

The 3-4-2-1 system had conceded six goals in the previous two games and looked to have run its course. Thus, with resources at centre-half limited, it was no surprise to see Rodgers revert to a flat-back-four against Blackburn.

With Mamadou Sakho limping off before the half-hour mark, Brendan Rodgers is as thin at centre-half as he’s been all season but, on the plus side, Dejan Lovren showed the type of form we (at the very least) expected of him when he was signed last summer.

According to Opta Stats, he made eight clearances to the nine of Sakho’s replacement Toure, and the duo showed signs of a useful partnership. Rodgers may have no choice but to pick the pair together for the visit of Newcastle on Monday, but it’s not only the lack of options in the centre that could prompt another spell of four at the back – it also helps out Alberto Moreno.

Without putting in a stand-out performance, Moreno looked competent at Ewood Park, which is the opposite of how he has performed on the left of midfield recently. He is clearly much more comfortable as an outright left-back, so we could see a return to form for the Spaniard if he’s utilised in his natural position for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, the absence of Jon Flanagan this season has been largely understated, but the youngster could be fit to make the bench for Newcastle, according to The Echo’s James Pearce. A return to the first team in either full-back position for Flanagan would be a welcome sight, but, in the meantime, Glen Johnson showed signs that he’s ready to play football again.

The stats suggest the right-back was Liverpool’s best outfield player on the night on Tuesday – with two attempts on target and a 91.4 per cent pass success rate. Only midfielders Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho made more passes on the night too, so it was a busy night for the former England defender.

It won’t be enough to earn him a new contract, but that sort of form would be welcomed in his final days as a Liverpool player.

Verdict: Stick with four at the back until the end of the season


Has Simon Mignolet done enough to earn another season as No. 1?

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 8, 2015: Liverpool's goalkeeper Simon Mignolet celebrates his side's 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers during the FA Cup 6th Round Quarter-Final Replay match at Ewood Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Ahead of the game, Kolo Toure said Simon Mignolet could go on to be Liverpool’s first choice goalkeeper for “many years.” After the game, our Feature Writer Henry Jackson claimed the Belgian was “once again superb” in his player ratings, making Mignolet man of the match with a score of 8.5.

It seems belief in Mignolet is becoming more apparent in the players, the media and Mignolet himself. Crucially, though, confidence in Mignolet is finally beginning to gain momentum with the fans. With an average of 8.8 from our readers, Mignolet was comfortably the best performer at Ewood Park in the eyes of many Reds.

Additionally, opposition fans don’t seem to faze the 27-year-old with their jeers anymore and, at home, the “Mignolet Moan” – as the lads at The Anfield Wrap refer to it – is beginning to subside when he has the ball at his feet.

Barring a spectacular collapse of confidence in the final stages of the season, Mignolet will surely be between the sticks for Liverpool next season.

Verdict: Yes, and perhaps beyond


What’s up with Daniel Sturridge?

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 8, 2015: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge in action against Blackburn Rovers during the FA Cup 6th Round Quarter-Final Replay match at Ewood Park. (Pic by Gareth Jones/Propaganda)

Truth be told, it was another abject display from Daniel Sturridge on Wednesday. That effortless first touch of last season continues to elude him, while he’s a lot easier to dispossess when he does manage to gain control of the ball.

He won just 28.6 per cent of his 14 individual duels with opponents at Ewood, per Opta. Compare that to the 71.4 per cent won by Coutinho from the same number of duels, while Raheem Sterling won 50 per cent of his 20 one-on-one situations.

Sturridge just isn’t quite cutting it at the moment, but the striker himself has admitted in the past that he does struggle to hit top form until he’s fully fit. His injury problems have been well documented, but the fact that Sturridge has only completed 90 minutes in five of his 15 appearances for Liverpool in 2015 suggests he just needs more pitch time.

He did play 85 minutes against Blackburn though, which is as good as a full outing, so another two full games under his belt and he should be firing by the time we meet Aston Villa at Wembley on April 19.

Verdict: Needs 90 minutes against Newcastle, and to start vs Villa.


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