After playing out a 2-2 draw last Sunday against champions Manchester City in what was arguably the best game of the season so far, Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield this weekend. Brendan Rodgers could not have got a tougher run in for his first set of home games with Manchester United set to come to town next for the next.
Neither team has got started for the season as yet with only three points taken out of four games between the two teams. While Liverpool's two games have involved seven goals, Arsenal's have been surprisingly scoreless. The League takes a break after this weekend for releasing players to their national teams for—and I am glad—competitive matches. Friendlies don't make much sense.
Both teams need to secure Champions League football to sustain hopes of bringing in fresh world class talent every season to keep them competitive. Speaking of which, the transfer window is still open and there might still be a few deals left to be done, which makes it very interesting to predict the Reds' starting lineup for Sunday.
Thus, let us see what changes Rodgers may possibly make after qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League in not exactly the best manner.
Goalkeeper: Peter Gulacsi
Pepe Reina has not been at his best for quite some while, but on Thursday—when he suddenly opened the gates for Hearts to start imagining qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League by spilling one—he did himself no favors. Kenny Dalglish overlooked his mistakes at times. I am not sure Rodgers is the same person.
Rodgers walks the walk when he says that he will play players on merit and not on anything else. I expect Peter Gulacsi to get a chance if not Brad Jones or Alexander Doni.
Defense: Daniel Agger, Sebastian Coates, Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique
Martin Skrtel has made a couple of mistakes already this season and I expect Sebastian Coates to take his place alongside the returning Daniel Agger at the back. Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique will fill in the fullback positions.
One ideology does say that backing players despite mistakes gives them confidence to perform better next time. We all saw how that ended up bearing fruit for Liverpool under Kenny Dalglish. Rodgers should definitely drop players as he did with Stewart Downing to encourage the ones who are knocking on the doors. It is a full squad and not just your favorite 11 players, right!
Midfield: Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, Nuri Sahin
Rodgers will most probably go with the same players that he went in with against Hearts, but I get a sneaky feeling that Nuri Sahin might just come in for Jonjo Shelvey, although my best lineup would be Sahin replacing Gerrard. I am not sure the captain can play three games in eight days.
Having said that, you do have to consider that Liverpool play a more possession-oriented brand of football that allows them time to rest within the game itself. It is not hustle and bustle to get to the goal and miss chance after chance. Thus, Gerrard may in fact still have a good deal left in the tank for one last outburst against the Gunners before the international break commences.
Attack: Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling
The trio in attack did very well against Manchester City and most probably will keep their places. Oussama Assaidi is someone I am dying to see more of and he will perhaps come on in the second half. Liverpool don't have many attacking options, and I expect one out of Adam Morgan and possibly Samed Yesil to be named on the bench.
Before signing off, I would just like to say, more like commend Rodgers' efforts in turning this team around, specifically with respect to personnel. He is very resourceful as everyone can see. He did the same at Swansea—wheeling and dealing to the hilt. With one day of transfers still left, Rodgers is bound to sign at least one more player.
I am guessing that it will be Fernando Llorente. I know it is wishful thinking but if it does become a fact, please consider Llorente in place of Borini for my prediction. To Sunday then. Oh, and of course, how can I forget the exciting deadline day of August 31st, 2012.
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