You are only as good as your last game. On Tuesday the shackles of intimidation tying Liverpool down were only shed in the last 20 minutes of their UCL campaign. But when we think of the Champion’s League campaign as a whole, the honest conclusion becomes clear: Liverpool did not deserve to go through. The manager is under increasing pressure and it is of his own making. Team selections have baffled even those most experienced in the beautiful game. With their bitter rivals confident ahead of the clash at the weekend, how should Rodgers approach the game?
Choose players on merit
Liverpool need goals. Now is the time to build partnerships so the manager chooses players that will make a difference. Emre Can needs to be given a chance- his appearances have shown vitality and a threat in attack. I do not believe that Allen deserves a place every week. His performances have been repeatedly mediocre and he is the weak link among the outfield players, often losing the ball. Coutinho has often shone in midfield- thinking creatively and opening up attacking chances. He is one of Liverpool’s game changers. A growing case for Brad Jones to be picked in Mignolet’s place means yet more pressure for him in another crucial game. His distribution is poor and decision making is still a weakness. Will Toure be fit for game of the season? It has come as a surprise to see him win player of the month for Liverpool but most Liverpool fans would select him on recent form. When it comes to our ailing strike force I’m failing to understand why Borini is repeatedly side-lined. We have seen his ability to provide crosses into the box, he has energy and pace. Since these are the qualities Liverpool have lacked up front, this is yet another blot against Rodgers’ decision making. The game against Basel saw no striker on the bench when Borini was available. How can Liverpool score goals and intimidate players? Rodgers has got to get it right and begin picking a consistent team.
Markovic and Sterling make a case for Rodgers’ relief
The unlikely hero from Tuesday’s match became the villain in 15 minutes. Markovic’s outstretched arm gave the opponents an excuse and the referee a decision to make. Luckily for him, his prior contribution added spice and liveliness to a lacklustre team effort and it could be said that he sparked the passion and resolve from the team with his introduction. This is a real positive for himself and the manager. It could mean that he makes an appearance against Manchester United at the weekend.
Sterling has also shown more of the fizz so loved in his style and has become more forward thinking. It would be great if he could link up with Markovic and create more chances. This is what has been missing from Liverpool’s performances.
Captain Fantastic ignites hope once again
Steven Gerrard is the elixir in times of despair. Tuesday night saw him emerge from an abyss of hopelessness and cause fans in the stands and at home to jump up and shout and scream. He made us happy, he breathed life into his team mates and he justified his own UCL qualification place. In a dismal overall performance he has given Rodgers a lifeline- play Stevie in attack. With Manchester United on the forefront of all our thoughts, no one will be more raring to go than Steven Gerrard.
Bitter rivalry as potent as ever
The most anticipated game in the Premier league is fixed for Sunday the 14th. Ferociousness is guaranteed as both teams need points to prove their progress in the Premier League. Liverpool did the double on Manchester United last season; a sweet memory. The saving grace will be the memory of the euphoria clinging to the current Liverpool side, doing the double over their long standing rivals. The new players will relish their part in the intensity of this historic contest, it will be their time to step up and make a case for a regular place in the first team.
For Rodgers, this is yet another crucial three points and a chance to gain much needed patience and support from the fans. The formation must mirror confidence and desire. With pride and points to play for Liverpool must show attacking intent from the start and be positive in their approach. This could be Rodgers’ opportunity to recapture the fans’ faith; no other game should be in mind when selecting the line-up.
If not before, all eyes will now be on Brendan Rodgers. Will he take the chance for redemption or will there be more disappointment before a remedy is found?