With a host of first team players out of action for Liverpool’s trip to the Britannia Stadium Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez faces a selection headache going into the game on Saturday.
The most notable absentees from the Liverpool dressing room tomorrow will be talismanic captain Steven Gerrard and top scorer Fernando Torres.
The two star players aren’t the only injuries the Reds boss will have to address going into the match. Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun will miss out along with winger Albert Riera and England first-choice right-back Glen Johnson.
However the Liverpool manager can take some comfort in the fact that he has new signing Maxi Rodriguez at his disposal to face the Potters after the winger signed a permanent deal of Wednesday night.
The Reds will also be boosted by the return from suspension of Argentine captain Javier Mascherano, who may slot into the middle alongside Lucas Leiva.
Taking all this into account Rafa has a tough job on his hands in deciding who will be in his starting eleven. Here’s my selection
RB: Phillip Degen
CB: Jamie Carragher
CB: Martin Skrtel
LB: Daniel Agger
RM: Maxi Rodriguez
CM: Alberto Aquilani
CM: Javier Mascherano
LM: Fabio Aurelio
AM: Dirk Kuyt
ST: David N’gog
It’s a tough choice to make, but that’s how I’d line-up.
Stoke are experts in the air so a tall and solid defense is essential which is my reasoning behind dropping Emiliano Insua from the first-team after a string of less than consistent performances.
Although many Reds may have chose Steven Darby over Phillip Degen I thought the full-back put in a decent shift against Reading and made some great runs down the wing and into their box. Last season we had trouble breaking down the Potters and I believe extra pressure from the full-backs may just make a difference.
The middle of the park was a tough choice to make, while I’d like to see Lucas in the center along with Mascherano, with Aquilani supporting Kuyt up front I felt we needed a more attacking option in the middle. With Fabio Aurelio looking like the only candidate for the left side (Babel claimed on Twitter he’s not in the squad) we needed a more attacking presence in the middle than the Brazilian.
Whenever I’ve seen Kuyt in the hole supporting the striker I’ve always thought he’s done a decent job. He lacks the pace to be a true winger and I think it brings out the best in him when he’s brought inside, hence why I put him in behind David N’gog.
Speaking of the Frenchmen I was unsure whether he’d be affective against a rough and tumble Stoke side, but with Torres out through injury and Voronin gone to Moscow Kuyt would be the only other real option and I’d much prefer him to be in the hole supporting N’gog than than Aquilani there supporting Kuyt.
While Pacheco has done brilliantly in the reserves whether it’s the right game to give him his first full debut is questionable. Although if he fit straight in he could be ideal to sit behind the striker if he doesn’t fit in it could cause us even more problems, which we just simple can’t risk at the moment, not when a win is needed.
Tell me your choices in the comments section, you might agree or you might think I’m totally off the mark. Whatever you think post it up.
Our first league game of the season takes us to Stoke as we try to put the FA cup exit behind us and focus on moving up the Premier League table.
Rafa has another selection headache with Benayoun, Torres, Gerrard, El Zhar, Riera and Johnson all injured.
Javier Mascherano is expected to return to action after his injury and ban. Pepe Reina is also expected to return in goal after missing the Reading game due to a “knock”. Maxi might make his LFC debut.
Ryan Babel tweeted this morning that he is not in the squad
@RyanBabel Hey people, I got some disappointing news, I m not travelling 2 Stoke.. The Boss left me out the squad. No explanation..
Not a good move Ryan, maybe tweets like these announcing the fact that you are not in the squad before Rafa did to the press is the reason why you are not in the squad.
OK, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT BITCH ABOUT RAFA’S SELECTION
Instead use all your energy to shout for our lads they are going to need it, COME ON REDS.
Kick off is at 12:45 PM (UK time)
The German leading sport magazine “kicker” released a list of the best Bundesliga football players of the year 2009. Sami Hyypiä, the former Liverpool’s number 4, who is actually playing for the front-runner Bayer 04 Leverkusen, was chosen to the best defender of the German league.
What convinced the most was Sami’s serenity, the quality of his headers and decisions, his reliability and inimitable charisma which is something of a rarity in the German football.
“There was no arguing about this choice in our office. Sami Hyypiä is a world class player and he is simply the best defender in our league, there is no doubt about that. Bayer Leverkusen is very lucky to have a player of such a unique quality in the squad. The rest of the league is unimaginable jealous of him”, explained “kicker” in the latest issue of the magazine.
Well, the Liverpool fans can estimate Sami’s value the best. We are happy for him, his success in Germany and for his new team, of course. Congratulations, Sami! You deserve that. But even if your new shirt is also red and it fits good, we would love to have you back. We still miss you!! YNWA
A Happy New Year to all Liverpool players, supporters, empireofthekop.com writers and readers.
Liverpool started this game with what is probably the standard line up bar one. Reina in goal, Johnson, Carra, Agger and Insua back four, Lucas and Aquilani central midfield, Kuyt out on the right, Benayoun out of the left, Torres in front and Gerrard licenses to roam the forward line. With the current squad I feel many would agree that the only change would be Mascherano for Lucas, and not because Lucas does not deserve to play. Just because Mascherano offers definitely more cover in front of defence and he has a very high ball recover rate.
Conditions were not perfect with a light snowfall, especially in the first 45 minutes, but it’s something to expect this time of year.
Today I won’t go much into detail but I will say that this is a game we would have deserved to draw but luck took a turn in our favour this time round and blessed us with a fabulous and much needed victory. Suddenly we are 4 points away from 4th spot, and still have half the season to play.
Admittedly, the result was harsh on Villa. They had two clear cut chances which Reina saved,so now I forgive his two blunders against Portsmouth. Agger is getting better but Johnson and Insua still leave us uncovered one time too often on their flanks. Aquilani played another 75 minutes which is fantastic given he seemed to have a hamstring issue prior to the game. Gerrard seemed to work harder than usual and Torres was not give much space and long balls to chase, the one he finally did get, on minute 92, he scored. God Bless Him. Kuyt seemed slightly sharper after the weekend’s rest. Again not a vintage Liverpool performance but given the pressure, the conditions and all other collateral causes we got three priceless points. Lucas, as always, ran his socks off.
Our next PL game is with fourth placed and hence direct competitors Tottenham Hotspurs as Anfield, which is a very vital game as it is a direct CL finish play-off match. After that away games to Stoke and Wolves, which will be tough but which should be within our reach for maximum points (and I am not being over optimistic).
All the tops teams seem to be beatable this season, and everyone is dropping points here and there. Chelsea and Arsenal may have issues with players leaving for the African Cup. We have to work on our confidence and get the lads to gel together again. A good win against Reading in the FA Cup round and victory at home against Spurs would be the perfect tonic.
May I take the opportunity to wish you all my best wishes for 2010. As a Liverpool fan it was a wonderful way to end 2009! Thanks Antoine for keeping us all in touch.