Brendan Rodgers’ Reds return to action after the international break with a trip to Old Trafford. We take a look at the potential team selection options ahead of the grudge match.
A dreadful performance and defeat against West Ham before the international disruption saw Brendan Rodgers’ side take a backward step and pass up a glorious chance to cement a strong opening to the campaign, thus increasing the pressure on Saturday’s mammoth showdown against Louis van Gaal’s side.
The Reds – who are the joint-lowest scorers in the Premier League – will have to improve significantly both in attack and defence in order to return to Merseyside with what would be a pressure-relieving and confidence boosting victory, against a United team who also arrive off the back of a defeat having lost 2-1 at Swansea last time out.
The grudge match could not be more finely poised with the two sides boasting almost identical records after the first four games, and a positive result could see a solid opening look all the better while a successive defeat would present an unimpressive start.
Liverpool will have to improve on their record of five defeats in the last six visits at an unhappy hunting ground however, if they want to emerge from English football’s biggest fixture victorious.
Jon Flanagan and Joe Allen remain absentees, while Daniel Sturridge – who returned to full training on Thursday – is also likely to miss out, despite reports previously indicating Saturday’s clash could see the comeback of the Reds’ much missed striker.
While familiar names are again unavailable, Rodgers faces an anxious wait over the availability of Jordan Henderson, who continues to be hampered by an on-going foot problem, while Adam Lallana is also touch-and-go to be involved as he struggles with a thigh issue.
The Reds boss will be hopeful of receiving a boost over the fitness of the England duo, but regardless of their inclusion, Rodgers faces some big decisions with his selection with question marks over places in defence and attack, including how to adapt to the monumental loss of the suspended Philippe Coutinho.
Rodgers has a huge call to make over whether to keep faith with Dejan Lovren who produced a woeful display in the West Ham loss, and a big decision over whether to stick with Joe Gomez out of position at left back where the 18-year-old struggled last time out, with Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno waiting in the wings.
Coutinho’s one-match ban opens up a space in the Reds attack, and the Liverpool manager has a number of options to utilise in the Brazilian’s absence, including reinstating Jordon Ibe into the starting XI, or handing Danny Ings his first Reds start alongside Christian Benteke after a lively cameo appearance against the Hammers two weeks ago.
Rodgers will be forced into making at least one change to his side with Coutinho out, and having previously spoken of the importance of consistency, the Reds’ leader is likely to make just a single alteration to his selection, though he could change shape depending on who enters the XI.
If the Northern Irishman does exactly that, and keeps with the 4-3-3 shape for the game, Coutinho’s absence leaves a wide role space in the side which could see the Liverpool manager opt to recall Jordon Ibe to the starting team.
The teenager would likely line up on the right of the attack with Roberto Firmino on the left with both playing in support of Christian Benteke, and in front of an untouched midfield three and back five – keeping Sakho and Moreno in reserve.
That one change would see the Reds line up like this at Old Trafford:
However, Rodgers could utilise a change of shape and personnel at Old Trafford and switch to a 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation.
Using that system could bring a compactness and extra-defensive protection centrally, as well as affording more presence in attack, allowing Benteke the chance to have direct support with a striker partner.
Following the disastrous display of Lovren, the Reds boss could bring Sakho back into the side next to Martin Skrtel and behind a midfield quartet of Lucas Leiva, James Milner, Emre Can and Roberto Firmino, with the lively Ings joining up with Benteke to spearhead the Reds new-look offensive line up.
The changes in system and personnel would see Liverpool look like this come 5:30pm kick-off time:
A trip to Old Trafford to take on your arch rivals isn’t the ideal fixture to have when looking to respond to defeat, but there arguably wouldn’t be a better place to get a positive result that could really kick-start the season and set up a promising campaign.
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