As Liverpool prepare for their final two games of pre-season, Henry Jackson selects five things Brendan Rodgers will be aiming to do in both matches.
In what is a rare occurrence, the Reds play two games in the space of 24 hours this weekend, as their summer of preparation for the 2015/16 season comes to an end.
First up is HJK Helsinki at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium on Saturday, before a visit to the County Ground to face League 1 outfit Swindon Town on Sunday.
Here are five that we believe the 42-year-old should be focussing on:
The brilliant young duo didn’t join the rest of the Liverpool squad for their pre-season tour of the Far East and Australia, having enjoyed an extended break after Copa America and Under-21 commitments, respectively.
Both are now back in the fold though, and it is imperative that they get some playing time under their belts ahead of the Stoke game.
They are going to be lacking in match practice, and given the fast-paced, physical style in which the Potters go about their business, Coutinho and Can both need to be fit and firing if they are to feature.
Coutinho, in particular, is almost too important to leave out these days, and seeing him back in the side this weekend will be a fabulous sight for all Liverpool fans.
If he can get a minimum of 90 minutes combined in the two games- a full match and a short cameo would probably be perfect- he should be ready for the main event a week on Sunday.
Both Coutinho and Can have new teammates that they need to get in tune with, and the clashes with Helsinki and Swindon represent the perfect opportunity for that to happen.
Integrate Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino
Speaking of new teammates, Liverpool’s two most expensive purchases of the summer, Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, will likely make their Liverpool bows in one of the two games.
It is vital that Rodgers gives them enough time to gel with their new colleagues, and while time on the training ground can be crucial, playing alongside them in a match is priceless.
Firmino is in the same boat as Coutinho and Can in terms of having an extended summer break, so chances are he will be a little rusty on his first showing in a Reds shirt.
The 23-year-old Brazilian is likely to be eased into the side by Rodgers during the early weeks of the season, which makes total sense.
Benteke, on the other hand, is under more pressure to go straight into the team and start scoring from the off.
The powerful Belgian will lead the line in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, and getting some valuable playing time and hopefully finding the net this weekend will stand him in good stead for a week on Sunday.
Both strikers will see this weekend as a perfect opportunity to prove themselves ahead of the Premier League curtain raiser, which can only be a good thing in terms of competition and intensity.
Ings has to be the favourite to partner Benteke as it stands. He looks a more polished, complete player than Origi, and his movement and work-rate could well be the perfect foil for the Villa man.
It would be a big risk starting Origi, if his raw, inconsistent pre-season performances are anything to go by, but a blistering performance over the weekend could change that.
Rodgers has shown in the past that he is not afraid to throw young players in at the deep end, and he will be keeping a keen eye on Origi in the coming days.
Another solid display from Ings should be enough to see him earn a start, assuming a front-two is used. [td_ad_box spot_id=“custom_ad_3″]
Give Alberto Moreno more playing time
Alberto Moreno is quite a divisive figure among Liverpool supporters, having had an extremely up and down first year on Merseyside.
The young Spaniard has been strangely left out for a fair chunk of pre-season, with new man Joe Gomez thriving in an unexpected left-back role, but he will surely feature over the weekend.
Despite Gomez’s superb and refreshing performances, it still seems likely that Moreno will get the nod at Stoke a week on Sunday, considering his extra experience.
There is definitely a feeling that the 23-year-old is a little undercooked, however, and Rodgers must give him some decent minutes on either Saturday and Sunday in order to up his match sharpness.
If Rodgers chooses to start Moreno against Mark Hughes’ side but again leaves him out this weekend, it would make absolutely no sense.
Decide on a formation ahead of Stoke clash
Perhaps the biggest decision Rodgers has in the lead-up to the Stoke showdown is which system to go with out of the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 diamond.
It has been the former that has been predominantly used during pre-season, but in terms of benefiting key men, it is the diamond that looks the better fit.
It is further up the pitch where things become a bit trickier, however, and Rodgers needs to go with his chosen Stoke system against both Helsinki and Swindon.
Assuming the midfield quartet is a diamond, who gets the nod in defensive midfield out of Can, Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen? And if it’s a midfield trio in a 4-3-3, does Coutinho play centrally with Henderson and Milner, without an out-and-out holding player?
Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe also come into the equation, having impressed throughout the summer, and they are an argument for Rodgers deploying a front-three.
It is at least refreshing to see the Ulsterman have plenty of depth and quality in these areas, but he has to have his mind made up ahead of next weekend’s clash if Liverpool are to hit the ground running in 2015/16.