The last game was a struggle for Liverpool: the team conceded three goals in a loss to Manchester City, while the one goal the team got was an own goal by City right back, Pablo Zabaleta. Up next, the team faces a Tottenham side that just dismantled QPR 4-0. The Reds will once again be challenged by a formidable attacking players in wingers Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela.
However, Brendan Rodgers should be fairly confident in his squad performing well since they beat The Lillywhites 5-0 a season ago. Many have said that that game was what sparked the magical campaign that Liverpool had last season. Additionally, this match could also be the debut of Mario Balotelli in a red jersey. As such I used a 4-3-1-2 formation for this game.
Simon Mignolet, there is no reason to bench the Belgian, even though he has conceded four goals in only two games. He is still by far the best keeper on the team and most, if not all, of the goals were the result of miscommunication in the defense in front of him.
I believe that Javi Manquillo will be able to hold his own in this game, and Rodgers does not really have a choice, Jon Flanagan is still injured. The Spaniard played well in his debut two weeks ago and he should be able to build on that success in this game.
While I firmly think that a Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel pairing is the best on the team, maybe a pairing more familiar with each other will allow better communication in the back line. That leads to Mamadou Sakho replacing Lovren. The pairing Rodgers used often last season and they should both be familiar with each others habits. While Lovren and Sakho are supposedly the duo of the future, they have not played with each other often enough to be a safe option in a game which Liverpool cannot lose.
With the injuries to both Glen Johnson and Alberto Moreno, this could be the season debut of Jose Enrique. The Spaniard was injured for much of last season, but he could be forced into action. He will have to be alert and at the top of his game because he will be opposite two players who are in form: Lamela and Eric Dier. Despite being a right back, Dier has scored two goals for the Spurs while Lamela has two assists.
Strangely, the Liverpool midfield seemed disjointed and overwhelmed by Man City, despite playing together for about two full seasons.
For this game, I think a midfield that is hardworking and more interested in defending is better. I believe that Joe Allen should retain his place in the squad, while Philippe Coutinho is replaced by Balotelli. A midfield three of Allen, Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson should be able to dominate the middle of the pitch with their energy, vision and physicality.
Even though Coutinho is a fantastic player capable of winning a game on his own, I believe that Allen would be a much better fit for this game and formation. The Welshman has a tenacity to him that Coutinho does not have, despite his small frame, he is capable of shielding the ball from opponents very well. While not even close to the offensive mastermind the Brazilian is, Allen is much more adept at getting back on defense.
The human dynamite that is Raheem Sterling would be a great option in the hole behind the strikers. With two of them in front of him, there will be so much more space for Sterling to exploit. In that role, his pace, passing ability and eye for goal can shine. His move to the position last season was one of the reasons why the Liverpool attacks were so deadly.
News has recently come out that Adam Lallana could start on Saturday after recovering from his knee injury. However, I am actually unsure where to place him since he was injured for much of preseason and the position he usually plays in is occupied by Sterling. As such I put him as a possible replacement for either Sterling or Allen. However, he could also come in for anyone else in the midfield and even for one of the forwards, if Rodgers decides that he only needs one for his chosen lineup.
Up top, Daniel Sturridge and Balotelli make their partnership official. While Balotelli is very different from Luis Suarez, he is also a player who likes to drift around the pitch. There are times during the match where he is out on the wings, looking for the ball and bringing it up when he gets it. He is both a fantastic dribbler and passer for a striker of his size and obviously, he is also a poacher in and out of the box. Some fans might worry about how selfish he can be but hopefully, Rodgers and team psychologist Steve Peters can work their magic on him.
What about the others?
Obviously there are other players who deserve playing time, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Rickie Lambert come to mind. However, as the last game showed, it is difficult to win against quality opponents if your players are not used to each other. It would be better if Rodgers starts players who are used to playing with each other against strong competition, while using matches against bottom of the standings teams to integrate the new faces.