IT’S been a fuzzy week. I think it’s going to take a while to make sense of what happened to us all in Spain and around the Sevilla game.
I think I’ve experienced new things this week, although it has been through a fog of too much beer, wine, cheese and things fried in the kind of oils we can only dream of in Blighty. I’m travelling home as I write this and I’m hungry now for the chill of a November afternoon at Anfield, and a large dose of home-spun familiarity.
A week’s convalescence would come in handy but life comes at us too fast for such luxury. I suspect that the likes of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Bobby Firmino haven’t indulged themselves quite as much as me in the past few days but I’ll bet their fraught and stretched sinews and limbs are screaming at them for some respite.
That Jürgen Klopp went with a virtually unchanged unit against Sevilla from the setup that beat Southampton wasn’t the greatest surprise, but the Liverpool manager will know that something will have to give very soon or he will have a renewed injury crisis on his hands. This time it will be of his own making.
Sevilla — this incarnation — are not a great side. A Liverpool front four of, say, Emre Can, Salah, Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could conceivably have at least matched Tuesday night’s productivity. Liverpool didn’t have to be great in racing to a 3-0 half-time lead. They just needed to be better in protecting it.
Had Klopp rotated — and yes I am telling him how to do his job here — then he might be looking forward to Saturday afternoon’s Chelsea game knowing the likes of Mane, Firmino and Phil Coutinho were fresh, fit, rested and raring to go.
Now the manager must wonder if he dare send out his top front four once more and risk finishing them off ahead of very winnable fixtures against Stoke City, and Brighton and Hove Albion. Sure Klopp might eek out one more lung-busting performance from Firmino, or extricate another match-winning display from Salah but it’s getting harder by the match to ask for these things.
The way this is going, there’s no give ahead of the team selection for next Wednesday night’s game at Stoke. And I think that’s a miscalculation. Games like Stoke and Brighton away are not bankers for Liverpool FC but they are very winnable football matches. Chelsea, home, away or on the moon, cannot be taken for granted. It would be sensational to do the cockney Blues and leapfrog them in the table. What a Saturday night we’ll all have if that happens. But you and I know that we can play well against Chelsea and lose. They remain champions until proven otherwise.
I think if our essential front four hadn’t all completed most of Saturday’s match against Southampton then Liverpool beat Sevilla about 5-2 on Tuesday. Mane, Salah, Firmino and Coutinho don’t run out of legs and the Spanish are routinely picked off on the break, broken, beaten and no one is talking about a defensive collapse. But they did and we didn’t.
Liverpool invested in the summer for the eventuality we now face. A spell of two games a week until the turkey’s on the table was apparent when the fixture list became public in June. The Reds were criticised post the last transfer window for not addressing obvious defensive failings but it was clear that they had dealt with a lack of depth in the offensive ones.
Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke were solid additions. Salah was an incredible one. Where once we looked to just Coutinho, Mane and Firmino and prayed to god weekly for their safety, now we can supplement them with players of equal standing. It represents massive progress. Perversely almost, the Liverpool manager has taken these new resources not as backup but as ways of augmenting an already potent attacking team. The temptation, which he has fallen to, is entirely understandable, but there comes a point. We are now at that specific point.
Jürgen — take this as a cheeky letter from me to you, but from the heart — we have to rotate. I know you have all the sports science data and I don’t, but the evidence of our eyes was that Liverpool players were dead on their feet in the second half in Seville.
Me, I’d take Chelsea as a free hit. I think Stoke and Brighton are bigger games. Well, they’re more winnable games. Not glamorous wins if you get them, but three points from the crap teams is of the same value from the better ones. I’d take chances for Chelsea. I think we might beat them come what May.
Predicted 11: Mignolet; Gomez, Lovren, Klavan, Moreno; Henderson, Can, Milner; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sturridge, Mane.
Kick off: 5.30pm on BT Sport
Referee: Michael Oliver
Odds: Liverpool 6-5, Draw 13-5, Chelsea 13-5
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Thanks Rob. I respectfully disagree. We hold on to our lead against Seville and no one’s worried about rotation because the lads are bouncing. But if we go there under strength I think it would have been madness – lose and we’re battling for 2nd in the group and talking about chucking the season away. Full strength against Chelsea then rotate against Stoke and Brighton away – a team with Chamberlain, Can, Milner is more suited to dogging it out like we did at the end of last season in my opinion.
Agree with Danny Mac too. I disagree with Rob here. No way could we go with a weakened first team to Sevilla. It was always going to be the toughest game of the group and we needed to be there with our best players to give us a chance.
Also, our players now still have an extra day’s rest than Chelsea who traveled a further distance and didn’t get back to England until Thursday morning. Can’t be making excuses about resting our best players against them when they would definitely be bringing Morata and Hazard in their starting 11.
Start our best 11 against them and go with Ox, Sturridge and a couple other fringe players vs Stoke. They are good enough to match Stoke. And we can bring on the big guns later in the 2nd half if things are a bit tight.
My point lads is that we shouldn’t be considering using our squad as putting out a ‘weakened team’. Alex Chamberlain is the second biggest signing in our history . He’s good. Starting him shouldn’t represent a compromise. Also playing a midfield of say Henderson , Wijnaldum and Can shouldn’t have weakened us either . Just those two changes might have allowed 2 of our main front 4 to be much fresher for a big 10 days ahead . You all expect to see an energy ful 90 mins from our main men on Saturday ? I don’t . I think we’ll need to do the business in the first half .
By the same token, when the energy levels of the main guys are flagging in the second half vs Chelsea, then we throw on those good alternatives you have already outlined.
I don’t think Klopp would have got away with not taking the fullest strength starting 11 to Sevilla. We got into a commanding lead. We didn’t give up a 3 goal lead because we were tired. We threw it away because of 2 individual errors that let them back into it. Without that happening, he could have brought off a couple of the front 4 early like he did vs Southampton
I also would point to the fact that Chelsea took a strong team away to an even easier opponent. And they would have even less of preparation and rest than us for tomorrow. So we really should have no excuses not starting our strongest team against them. And our strongest team includes Salah and Firmino, not Ox and Sturridge.
Fair play gibbo, called it closer than i
“…three points from the crap teams is of the same value from the better ones.”
Not quite, because beating our rivals not only gives us 3 points, but takes points off them too, which is just as valuable come the end of the season. Never heard of a 6-pointer? It’s obviously bad arithmetic, but there’s a value in making Chelsea drop points.
There was no way Klopp could have rotated and put out anything less than what we could estimate was the strongest lineup available to him. I think he will do the same again on Saturday. A lot of these players have had breaks through injury so getting minutes is almost important rather than getting rested. Henderson, Mane, Coutinho have all had breaks of late. I think Salah and Firmino will get a rest midweek next week. To suggest that resting your key players in the big games to keep them fresh for the “very winnable games” is madness. The game on Saturday is a huge opportunity for us to move right up into the mix for second, particularly given United and Spurs have some tough games in the coming weeks. I just can’t imagine a world where he rests 3 of the so called “fab 4” as you’re suggesting. If we lose we go 6 points behind Chelsea who themselves have a great run of fixtures through to new year.
Thinking about it the whole defence (apart from Moreno astonishingly) have been rotated. TAA, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Klavan, Ming and Karius have all been in and out of side for various reasons. Can has had plenty of rest of late too so I could see him starting on Saturday. Henderson missed West ham and withdrew from England squad. Coutinho missed a few games through inury during same period and wasn’t Southampton his first game back other than friendlies for Brazil during international fortnight? Mane again has missed games through injury. I would worry for Salah and Firmino a little more however with the games they have played. A rest for both or 25 mins of the bench if needed against Stoke for me. Ox and Sturridge to come in.