In the last match against Ludogorets, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers switched back to the 4-3-1-2 after unsuccessfully trying out the 4-2-3-1 against Aston Villa. Against Aston Villa, the team looked disjointed and unable to become the fierce attacking side that fans have become accustomed to. Balotelli moved around the field too often; there was nobody for the midfielders to look for when driving play forward. As the season progresses, Rodgers should continue to use the 4-3-1-2 diamond as his main formation.
It is difficult to predict a lineup for the game this weekend, since Rodgers hasn’t really been in this situation during his tenure: having to rotate his squad because of midweek games. The team also has a game against Middlesbrough next Tuesday for the Capital One Cup. The players for that match will most likely be composed of bench and younger players.
Simon Mignolet should keep on starting unless injury or a major dip in form befalls him. Both of the goals that he conceded in the past week have been a result of the defense letting him down. The first was a failure to clear the ball from a corner, and the second was a team-wide mental shutdown that allowed Ludogorets’ Dani Abalo to sneak-in behind the defense.
Javier Manquillo should be able to start this weekend on short rest. He has already improved in the few games he has played for Liverpool. His crossing and overall attacking ability has become much better, but his concentration can still lapse on occasion. He constantly got forward against Ludogorets and was a menace for much of the night.
The pairing of Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren has started the past three matches, but it is probably time to rest Lovren, especially with the Liverpool derby coming next week. Martin Skrtel is healthy after being injured in the match against Manchester City. A pairing of Sakho and Skrtel should be able to repel the West Ham attack that consists mostly of Carlton Cole and Mauro Zarate.
Jose Enrique was on the bench for the last match, why not allow him to return to the first team for this game? He should still be a solid defender after his long time on the sidelines, and he was the by far first choice left back before his injury. Another fact that goes in Enrique’s favor is that Jon Flanagan will be out of at least two more months after having surgery on his injured knee. Rodgers may still decide to use Alberto Moreno but he should try to get Enrique back into the first team picture.
Since Steven Gerrard played the full match on Tuesday, it is unlikely he will start against West Ham. As such, Lucas could be a capable replacement for the captain for this match. His tenacity and energy will be essential for him to be able to protect the defense from the West Ham attack. Jordan Henderson should start again with his boundless energy. This game could be the first that he captains after being promoted to vice-captain during the week. Adam Lallana has started the last two matches but had to be replaced in both since he still is not in peak health after his injury. Hopefully this match could be the match where he breaks out, where he returns to being the player he was last season for Southampton.
Raheem Sterling played the entire match against Ludogorets; one has to worry about him burning out since he is still only 19 years old. If Rodgers wants to rest his young star, Philippe Coutinho could come in and put his mark on the match. He has not been his best this year, despite a great preseason, but he is capable of winning a match on his own.
Mario Balotelli scored his first goal for his new club against Ludogorets and hopefully he will turn that first breakthrough into even more goals. He will be without his strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, for this weekend at least. However, it looks like the England international could be available for the derby the week after. Fabio Borini came on as a substitute against the Bulgarians and instantly made an impact. He was active, hard working, and tested the opponent’s defense right away with a strong header.