Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool kick-off their Europa League campaign on Thursday night when they take on French side Bordeaux. Ben Twelves previews the clash and takes a look at the potential team selection options.
Liverpool begin their 2015/16 Europa League campaign against Bordeaux, where the Reds will be looking to stamp their authority on a tricky Group B with immediate effect.
A positive start to the season has suffered a double blow following back-to-back defeats in the Premier League, but Rodgers’ men must respond strongly and bounce back to winning ways at Nouveau Stade de Bourdeaux – where the two sides meet for the first time since the Reds’ 3-0 win in 2006 – in order to start an extremely important European journey well.
The competition – which Liverpool have been knocked out of at the round of 32 stage in their last three campaigns – provides Rodgers’ side with the incentive of a return to the Champions League stage, and it therefore must be taken seriously by the Reds boss with his Anfield future potentially resting on qualification for Europe’s elite competition.
With the Europa League a notoriously difficult juggling act alongside the domestic season, Rodgers faces a difficult task to find the right balance to allow his side to compete to the maximum in both, but it’s a mission he must accomplish as the pressure increases.
Jon Flanagan remains an absentee while Jordan Henderson is set to miss out with a continuing heel issue which the captain has undergone specialist treatment on in America, and despite returns to training for Daniel Sturridge and Joe Allen, the game is set to come too early for either to take part.
Rodgers is set to welcome Adam Lallana back into the set-up however with the attacking midfielder also having made a comeback to full training last week, and Philippe Coutinho is available again after serving a one-match ban for the appalling loss to Man United last Saturday.
With the match to be the second of three in eight days for the Reds, Rodgers has decided to heavily rotate his squad and will afford match minutes to those who have so far seen their game time limited, while also taking a number of youngsters and resting key figures ahead of a now vitally important league clash against Norwich.
Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure are set to come into the side for their first appearances of the season, while Alberto Moreno is also likely to enter the XI at left back with Joe Gomez a candidate to switch to the right, following Rodgers’ decision to leave Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren on Merseyside.
The midfield shape up is also set to change after Lucas Leiva and vice-captain James Milner were also left out, meaning Emre Can is set to continue in middle of the park where he could be joined by Coutinho and Jordan Rossiter – though fellow travelling youngster Cameron Brannagan will be hopeful of some match action too.
With options at his disposal to do so, Rodgers will freshen up his attack for the European opener after deciding to rest Christian Benteke with one eye on Sunday’s fixture, meaning Roberto Firmino, Jordon Ibe and Danny Ings will be hopeful of featuring, while Divock Origi could be set for his first Reds start.
The Liverpool XI
Rodgers is set to make changes to his side on Thursday night with personnel, but after watching his team turn in a lacklustre display, void of attacking threat and goals in a negative 4-5-1 shape, the Reds manager could opt for a more offensive out-look.
4-3-3 – the Liverpool boss’ alleged favoured formation – is likely to be utilised with the Northern Irishman preferring to operate without a strike-duo, and the system could be introduced along with five changes to the XI.
Toure, Sakho and Moreno are set for appearances and appear certain – alongside Gomez – to form a new-look back four, behind a midfield three that could see Emre Can partnered by Rossiter and the returning Coutinho.
An all-changed attacking line-up could also see a youthful trio of Ibe, Ings and Origi spearhead the Reds’ offense in Bordeaux and those changes to system and team could see the Reds line up like so on Thursday night:
However, within the same shape – despite a switch to a 4-4-2 diamond looking a logical move – Rodgers has the chance to name a slightly different looking side.
The back four seemingly picks itself with first choice starters absent, as does the midfield, but in attack, Rodgers could hand minutes to fit-again Lallana – if not Firmino – who could play at Ings’ expense in the front three alongside Ibe and Origi.
With those adjustments, Liverpool could look like this come 6pm kick-off time:
With a solid start having suffered a double set-back, it’s essential the Reds open an important Europa League tournament positively restoring confidence in the process, ahead of some vital upcoming games in all competitions.
The match is live on BT Sport in the UK, and live on Fox Sports 1 in the USA.
BORDEAUX vs LIVERPOOL PREVIEW