Liverpool send in the kids for EUROPA League tie in Russia.
For those who were terrified of how Brendan Rodgers might treat this match, and are still a bit fumed about releasing the team's cracken(s) in the league cup match against Swansea (I'm only half in that category) you can rest easy. Only the kids are going to Russia. Gerrard, Allen, Suarez, Sterling, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Enrique, Reina, and Sahin aren't even making the trip. I would think it's pretty unlikely that Suso starts or even plays as well. It's going to be the second string. So you may want to watch this match from behind your couch or desk or chair if you're at work. It might not be pretty.
Apparently there's some rumor going around that Liverpool may play something of a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 or 3-5-1-1 or whatever. You can easily see why. A draw would leave Liverpool really only needing to beat Young Boys at home to progress out of the group. A loss still leaves things in their own hands, needing four points (possibly) out of the last two games to progress. Plus, Liverpool just might not have the pieces with this stripped down squad to play their normal 4-3-3.
How would this work? Well, Wisdom -- now probably not as needed in the first 11 with Glen Johnson returning to health ad Enrique also being fit -- would slide into his normal central defense role alongside Coates and Carragher. That isn't the worst idea, because Anzhi is not going to keep Traore on the bench this time and with Eto'o moving deeper behind the striker, Carra may need all the help he can get. Flanagan and Robinson would act as wingbacks. We know that Rodgers hasn't been opposed to this set up before, switching to it in the second half of the Derby to shut Everton's left down.
Beyond that, Henderson and Shelvey are kind of the only options, which means Shelvey won't be needed at the weekend until Chelsea simply mark Sahin out of the game and he has to be brought off after an hour. Ahead of them? Well, ideally if this were in a vacuum I'd love for Suso to move to a central role where he could really pull some strings. But again, he's needed on Sunday, so he probably sticks on the bench. In a dream world, Pacheco would get another look, but he's been frozon out after his brief appearance in this competition in Switzerland. Which means....ok, I need you to sit down here....take a deep breath....sure you're ready?.....Ok, here goes....Joe Cole. I just can't see any other way around it, despite how awful he's been. We know Downing and Assaidi will man the flanks if it's the normal formation. We could see Downing as the left wingback if things change around and Assaidi would then make way. I guess Samed Yesil will start up front and look bewildered. Wouldn't you?
Whatever Rodgers decides to do here, you fear a hiding. A squad filled with neophytes and second-teamers traveling this far to what is not going to be a pleasant atmosphere against a quality team that needs the three points here. It doesn't add up well.
It's going to be a learning experience for a lot of Liverpool's youngsters. Hopefully, it's not the nasty kind of learning experience.