This evening’s Carling Cup fixture against League One club Exeter City will give us an firm idea of the importance the Reds will be giving to the two Cup competitions this season. Our ventures into domestic Cup competitions have not been top notch and in many instances, such as last season, our exits proved to an embarrassment.
Kenny has promised not to underestimate the task ahead of us. This season in particular, there are various predicaments to take into account: first of all, we are out of Europe so these competitions cannot be regarded as distractions; secondly, we still have one, two or maybe even three first team players that need game time to enhance their fitness and refine their cohesion within the team. Thirdly, we don’t have ‘obligations’ to rotate the team to an extent that might distort the fundamentals, and we don’t have the necessity to ‘rest’ players. Finally, there is a requirement to take into consideration that the Exeter City players will be playing the ‘game of their lives’ and it will be a dream for them to engrave their names in the club’s history if they manage to create an upset (possibly they will not have our technical acumen, but there is firm possibility that they might attempt to out-run us). More than an upset, for us Reds it would definitely verge on the tragic if they were to dump us out of the competition.
Case in point: Sunderland fielded a full strength squad last night and were thrown out unceremoniously by Brighton and Hove Albion!
Obviously, there is another side to the coin! There are players that ‘need’ to play. Regular subs like Doni, Flanagan, Robinson, Spearing, Shelvey, Maxi, Aurelio and a few others will be raring to go and expect this to be ‘their’ occasion to wins points with the Manager. Skrtel too was on the bench last weekend so he might be given game time to improve his fitness and stamina levels, especially now that ‘The Big Greek’ has moved to other pastures. Ultimately the Dalglish/Clarke tandem must find the right balance.
Players like Joe Cole, Aquilani, Poulson, Degen, Insua , Pacheco, Jones and Wilson, all off which rumoured and likely to be moving on or loaned out, may not be available. Hence my team selection for tomorrow would be (provided the named players are fit): Doni, Flanagan, Carra, Skrtel, Aurelio, Henderson, Adam, Spearing, Maxi, Suarez, Carroll, Subs: Jones/Reina, Kelly, Enrique, Kuyt, Downing, Meireles/Lucas. And what is yours?