Shay Given has suggested that Liverpool might have one crucial edge which could enable them to ‘challenge’ his former club Manchester City for Premier League supremacy this season.
Missing out on the Champions League was certainly a disappointment for the Reds, but the ex-Republic of Ireland goalkeeper believes it could actually be beneficial to our hopes of pushing Pep Guardiola’s side all the way in the title race.
Speaking to BBC Sport, the Match of the Day pundit said: “Liverpool won’t like being in the Europa League but it will help them challenge City, because their midweek games will not be as demanding as Champions League matches are.
“I am not saying the Europa League is easy, but the facts are the teams are not as good, and it means [Jurgen] Klopp will be able to rotate his squad.
“He did it against LASK in Austria on Thursday, when [Mo] Salah came off the bench late on to score, but was still fresh to face West Ham. It is another reason why this strong Liverpool start might be hard to stop.”
Given’s logic makes sense, with Klopp able to change his entire starting line-up for the game against LASK and still field a strong enough team for Liverpool to prevail 3-1, despite needing to come from behind (BBC Sport).
That result was repeated against West Ham less than 72 hours later, with the Reds manager this time making eight changes, utilising his squad to great effect and still getting the results to keep his team on Man City’s coattails.
Guardiola’s side probably won’t be too stretched in their Champions League group, with all due respect to RB Leipzig, Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade, so they should still be able to indulge in rotation and continue winning games, even allowing for the long-term absence of Kevin De Bruyne.
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The hope for Liverpool will be to wrap up first place in their Europa League group at the earliest opportunity, giving Klopp the scope to field experimental line-ups for their final game or two without any consequence over the result.
Where squad depth could truly come into play is in the spring months – if the Reds reach the business end in Europe, they may well go full-strength in trying to win that competition while also attempting to maintain form in the Premier League.
Talk of a title challenge seems slightly premature for now, but the manner in which we’ve started the campaign offers increasing hope that we could possibly go toe-to-toe with Man City once more this season.