Liverpool kick-off their Europa League campaign away to Bordeaux on Thursday. Here are five players who should begin proceedings in France.
That final at Switzerland’s St.Jakob-Park in May feels a long way off, but the Reds will know that victory there in eights months will see them automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Brendan Rodgers has an important job in rotating his squad for European games, in order to keep his key players fresh for the Premier League, but there is a fine line between making too few and too many changes.
A number of faces are definitely due some playing time on Thursday evening, will surely see it as an opportunity to earn more first-team action in the coming weeks.
Here are five players we’d like to see start against Bordeaux.
The general consensus among most Liverpool supporters is that Mamadou Sakho should always be the first defender on Rodgers’ team-sheet, and he will surely be given his first start of the season in the south of France.
Sakho’s recent omission from the team has been one of the great mysteries of the Reds’ campaign so far, and he will be desperate to prove a point in his homeland.
You would assume that Touré & Sakho will have a chance Vs Bordeaux. Let's hope they make a strong claim for the first team.
— LFC Round Up (@LFCroundup) September 14, 2015
The 25-year-old has lost his place in the France squad because of a lack of playing time, so this represents a great chance of him to shine in front of his compatriots.
Sakho has plenty of experience in Europe with both Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain, and a solid, eye-catching performance could pressure Rodgers into finally dropping Dejan Lovren for the visit of Norwich City on Sunday.
Kolo Toure is almost something of a forgotten man on Merseyside these days, but it seems highly likely that he will take to the pitch on Thursday.
The 34-year-old is clearly not part of Rodgers’ thinking in the league, but his vast experience could be vital in what is likely to be a young starting eleven.
Kolo Toure for interim manager.
— Tom McMahon (@tomjpmac) September 13, 2015
Toure will be aware that Martin Skrtel is receiving almost as much criticism as Lovren from some quarters, and like Sakho, Thursday acts as a great chance for him to impress his stubborn manager.
A Toure-Sakho partnership genuinely feels more solid than Rodgers’ current centre-back pairing of choice; they need to go and prove it now.
Not many fans would have predicted Joe Gomez usurping Alberto Moreno as Liverpool’s first-choice left-back in the early stages of 2015/16, but that is exactly the situation the Spaniard finds himself in.
His inconsistent first year at Anfield left plenty of supporters frustrated and unconvinced, and Rodgers has clearly lost some faith in the former Sevilla man.
Gomez’s needless conceding of a penalty at Man United last weekend has raised a few question marks over his lack of experience, however, and Moreno is likely to have a chance to further heap pressure on the 18-year-old in France.
Today’s big-read article comes via @karlmatchett on attacking play and Moreno can be key to change.http://t.co/L2Im1uDPtW
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) September 15, 2015
The 23-year-old definitely gives the Reds more natural attacking width down the left-hand side, but it is his defensive qualities that constantly come into question.
The likeable left-back will be desperate to slot into the back-line and impress, but whether he enhances his chances of getting his place back ahead of Gomez will become clearer after the game.
There were high hopes for Jordon Ibe this season, following an impressive summer in the Far East and Australia, but things haven’t gone as planned.
The 19-year-old has disappointed when he has featured, most notable at Stoke City and Arsenal, and is still very much a work in progress. The Raheem Sterling comparisons certainly haven’t helped him.
The showdown with Bordeaux provides Ibe with the perfect opportunity to earn a much-needed start and strut his stuff on the European stage.
Not only will it prove to be invaluable experience for the Englishman, it will also allow him to shine in a less pressurised situation compared to the league.
Ibe’s potential is huge- there is every chance he will mature into a future Liverpool and England regular- but for now he should mainly be used in the Europa League, with fleeting cameos in the Premier League.
I think we have all just about got over Rodgers deploying Danny Ings as a wing-back in the loss at United on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll see the Englishman in his best role up front against Bordeaux.
Christian Benteke is to be rested with the Norwich game in mind, with Ings leading the line on his European debut.
The 23-year-old will be desperate to show what he is made of in his natural position, and he will hopefully give Bordeaux’s defence a restless evening in front of the travelling Reds supporters.
Divock Origi is an alternative to Ings, but the young Belgian cannot yet be relied on as much as the ex-Burnley striker.