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.