Liverpool need to get through a play-off leg of the Europa League to qualify for the Group Stages. Including the two qualification rounds, that’s eight winnable matches we’re playing in 2015/16 on top of our domestic duties.
If we qualify from the group we can start taking it a little more seriously and see it as a chance of glory, but early on – it simply must be used as a chance to hone players and test the mettle of those struggling for minutes.
Based on who we think will be starting Premier League matches early on, here’s a possible Europa League XI – using the 4-3-3 formation Brendan Rodgers seems to be favouring right now.
GK) Adam Bogdan
It’s quite possible that Simon Mignolet will play all matches when fit, but if Rodgers rates Bogdan, he’ll hope the Hungarian won’t let him down in the Europa League. He’s looked solid enough on the pre-season tour.
DR) Nathaniel Clyne
With Andre Wisdom leaving on loan, Clyne has no natural backup option in the squad until Jon Flanagan returns from injury. Joe Gomez can play here too of course, but we’re using him at left-back instead of Alberto Moreno in this Europa League lineup.
DC) Dejan Lovren
After strong pre-season form compared to Lovren’s shabby displays, Sakho is most fans’ favourite to start alongside Martin Skrtel in defence – meaning the £20m Croat could be restricted early on to chances in the lesser European competition.
DC) Kolo Toure
If Tiago Ilori leaves on loan, which looks likely (although it saddens us), Toure will be the natural Europa League (and League Cup) candidate. His experience should help us negotiate the early rounds.
DL) Joe Gomez
We can’t see Jose Enrique getting much of a sniff at Liverpool if he’s still around by the end of the transfer window – and would love to see youngster Gomez getting as much opportunities as possible considering his excellent performances Down Under.