Competitions like the Europa League and the League Cup have almost always been where bigger teams give both youth and those on the fringes of the starting eleven a chance to impress and when Liverpool host Swiss side FC Sion at Anfield later in the day, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
That’s not a guess either — Reds boss Brendan Rodgers confirmed it in his pre-match press call at Melwood on Wednesday. The Northern Irishman not only said that he’d be looking to rest players like Daniel Sturridge, who is expected to be given a break before the meeting with Everton at the weekend, but he hinted heavily that he’ll be handing a starting berth to youngster Divock Origi in place of the 26-year old.
The Belgian started the 1-1 draw with Bordeaux in Liverpool’s first Europa League fixture, but he’s struggled to break into the Reds first team with only a single appearance in the Premier League thus far this season. With compatriot Christian Benteke still laid up with a hamstring problem, Rodgers will be looking to get the confidence of the 20-year old up and it sounds like the meeting with the Swiss side should provide him with ample opportunity to do just that.
Described as “awful, awful, awful” by their chairman following a dismal loss to Vaduz on Sunday, Sion boss Didier Tholot’s boys travel to Merseyside on the back of two league defeats in a row and sitting smack in the middle of the 10-team Swiss Super League — already 13-points behind run-away leaders FC Basel.
That being said, Liverpool’s domestic form hasn’t exactly been sparkling. A thrilling win over Aston Villa at the weekend may have seen the Kop leave Anfield with smiles on their faces, but the fact that we gave up two second half goals to a side now sitting in the bottom three is a concern in itself. Sion will no doubt be defensive minded tomorrow, but after beating Rubin Kazan in their opening fixture, they’ll be looking to stay on top of the group. The best way to do that, of course, will be to sneak a win at Anfield and Tholot, knowing what he does about the Reds unstable back-line, will be looking for ways to get the best of out of striker Moussa Konaté, who has five goals this season, and Portuguese midfielder Carlitos, who has already claimed three. Offence, especially against this side, is quite often the best form of defence.
Heading into the meeting with Everton this weekend, Rodgers, on the other hand, will be looking to keep the damage to a minimum and the morale at the maximum — a feat that is always the aim, but one that seems to be easier said that done. The Northern Irishman could turn to ‘keeper Adam Bogdan to stand-in for incumbent Simon Mignolet after the Hungarian’s penalty shoot-out heroics against League Two side Carlisle United and with Dejan Lovren out for some time with an ankle problem, Kolo Toure is likely to be drafted in to partner either Mamadou Sakho or Martin Skrtel. Alternately, the Reds boss could be persuaded to hand a spot in the heart of the defence to Joe Gomez who has fallen out of favour as of late with Alberto Moreno reclaiming the fullback spot the former Charlton youth occupied at the start of the season.
One youngster who is almost certain to get a spot from the get-go is Jordan Rossiter after putting in a decent shift in the middle of the park against Bordeaux and he could end up playing alongside the likes of Adam Lallana, who bagged a splendid solo goal on Match Day One, and Joe Allen, who is still being eased back into the side following his return from injury, with a mix of youth and experience certain to be the blend of choice for the Northern Irishman.
Rodgers knows he’s going to live and die by results in the Premier League, but going on a run in the Europa League won’t do his chances of staying in charge any harm. I’d love to say that our second string should be able to navigate today’s meeting as well as this group with a relative amount of ease, but I know there’s no easy matches — I also haven’t forgotten what happened last time we underestimated Swiss opposition. Hopefully the boss hasn’t either…