Following Saturday’s disappointing defeat at Old Trafford, Liverpool will be forced to quickly shift their focus away from domestic matters with a trip to France and a meeting with FC Bordeaux in their opening Europa League fixture just over the horizon.
After starting the season with three clean sheets, the Reds have conceded six goals in their last two matches as their Premier League campaign took a turn for the worse with back to back defeats against West Ham United and bitter rivals Manchester United on either side of the international break. With one eye firmly on Sunday’s meeting with Norwich City at Anfield, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is expected to make a number of changes to his side as he not only looks to stop the rot before it does any further damage, but also to give a number of fringe players a shot at battling for a spot in the first team.
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Although long term absentee Daniel Sturridge has returned to first team training and there are rumours floating around regarding him playing some part against the Canaries at the weekend, Rodgers will almost certainly not risk the 25-year old at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on Thursday. With Jordan Henderson in America seeking treatment on his ongoing heel injury, youngster Jordan Rossiter could play some part after making his début against Arsenal late last month.
Philippe Coutinho, who has served his one match ban for a pair of yellow cards in the loss to the Hammers, and Adam Lallana, who spent the last month on the treatment table with a thigh problem, are both expected to participate in some capacity, but it’s the likes of fullback Alberto Moreno, goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and the long awaited return of defender Mamadou Sakho which are the big ticket changes that Rodgers is expected to make to the side that lost in Manchester at the weekend.
Whereas his counter-part in Rodgers has the luxury of rotation, Bordeaux boss Willy Sagnol, who saw his side sneak into the Group Stage after edging out Kazakhstan based side Kairat on away goals, won’t have the same luxury with a number of injuries forcing the Frenchman’s hand. Attackers Thomas Toure
and Cheick Diabate are both expected to miss out while Les Girondins will be light in the center of the park with midfield trio Lamine Sane, Gregory Sertic and Jaroslav Plasil sidelined as well.
With that in mind, the Ligue One side kick started their poor start to the season with a 2-2 draw with French powerhouses Paris St. Germain last Friday, coming back from two goals behind and a man down to claim a well deserved point. That both of their goals arguably came on the back of some poor ‘keeping from PSG shot-stopper Kevin Trapp might be worth mentioning, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear that come out of Sagnol’s mouth. What he’ll almost certainly be on about though is the availability of striker Diego Rolan who could make his first start this season after returning from injury.
Where the Uruguayan is certain to help add an extra level to their attack, Rodgers is expected to leave his main goal threat at home with Divock Origi, who is no stranger to French football having played for Lille, set to replace compatriot Christian Benteke in the Liverpool attack. The Northern Irishman watched on as the big Belgian scored a cracker of a goal against United on Saturday, but his recent struggles with a thigh injury may be the reason behind leaving the 25-year old back on Merseyside rather than his so far indifferent form since moving to Anfield from Aston Villa over the summer.
While utilizing too much of his squad in the Europa League is certainly a risk for Rodgers, it’s one he’s going to have to take with the matches starting to pile up and Liverpool’s chances of claiming a spot in the top four of the Premier League looking suspect at best — which gives the likes of Sakho and Moreno and few others the perfect chance to push for a chance to help turn this ship around. Let’s face it, if you can’t shine in the Europa League, there’s probably a reason you’re not in the first team picture…