Ok, I think by now we’ve established that things aren’t exactly going to plan. Even though they came sandwiched between a win in the Champions League, back to back league losses against Aston Villa and West Ham United have certainly dampened the mood around Anfield.
This early in the season, fatigue is no excuse, but things are already starting to get hairy with Championship side Middlesbrough visiting Merseyside tomorrow in the League Cup. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers brought in a significant number of reinforcements over the summer to not only help bring up the overall quality of the squad, but to give him rotation options when meetings like this rolled around. Well, with all the injuries we have, it looks like we should have signed a few more faces.
And that’s saying a lot since the Reds signed nine players over the transfer window and hung on to a pair — defender Kolo Toure and striker Fabio Borini — who looked like they’d be shown the door. Both of them will likely feature tomorrow as Rodgers does what he can to shuffle his pack ahead of the first Merseyside Derby of the season this weekend, but he could end up being a few cards short with the news that we’ve picked up another two injuries.
“We just need to assess one or two,” said the Reds boss in his pre-match press conference. “Jordan Henderson picked up a knock so we need to assess where he’s at. And Philippe Coutinho is highly unlikely for tomorrow as well.” Liverpool’s vice-captain is currently nursing a hip strain and the Brazilian play-maker was left out of the match day squad that fell to the Hammers after picking up a groin strain — and things don’t get better from there.
“We haven’t got any guys returning. Glen Johnson is still out. Joe Allen and Emre Can aren’t fit. Daniel Sturridge won’t be fit. Young Jon Flanagan has obviously had his operation” continued the Northern Irishman. “So we’ve got a few injuries to cope with but it’ll always give a chance to one or two of our younger players, who are doing very well at the Academy, to get a chance to be in the squad. That’s my first look.”
Whether that’s disconcerting for you is a personal matter that I’m not about to speculate on, but I do get the feeling that Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka is enjoying the news immensely. After eight matches, Boro are sitting pretty in the Championship table with three wins on the trot, including a 4-0 demolition of Brentford at the weekend, filling them with confidence — something their going to need if they want to win at Anfield for the first time in 25-years.
“The most important thing is that we keep going in this way and win games,” the Spanish manager said when asked about the meeting with the Merseyside giants. “We have won three in a row now, we have another on Tuesday and we have to keep looking at the following game.” Veteran midfielder Dean Whitehead will be missing for the Teesiders through suspension, but former Liverpool defender Daniel Ayala is back in contention after returning from a ban.
While Rodgers will be looking towards kids — and Rickie Lambert, who is set for his first start since joining Liverpool over the summer — to deliver, Karanka will be looking to midfielder and captain Grant Leadbitter to continue his fine run of form. The former Sunderland man has scored seven times in his last eight matches, and after watching the way Liverpool capitulated against the Hammers on Saturday, he’ll see no reason he can’t get in on the action.
Sadly, from where I’m sitting, I also don’t see any way to contradict that.