Following two crippling losses on the domestic trail, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has opted to rest a number of his top players ahead of Merseyside’s UEFA Europa League opener against Bordeaux on Thursday at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.
The fourth-year boss announced he will sit £32.5 million striker Christian Benteke, as well as midfielders James Milner and Lucas Leiva and defenders Nathanial Clyne, Dejan Lovren, and Martin Skrtel for the Group B matchup. Team captain Jordan Henderson will also sit out while he recovers from a procedure to help his ailing heel.
The Reds find themselves back in Europa contention for the first time in three years, when they were eliminated in the Round of 32 in 2013.
Much like his Chelsea counterpart, Rodgers isn’t downplaying the importance of Europa League but rather seeks to invigorate his squad’s Premier League standing after falling to West Ham and Manchester United by a combined 6-1 to land in 10th place on the table. Instead, his stars and main contributors will sit back and await Sunday’s important clash with Norwich City, and try to kick-start an attack that’s netted only three goals.
On top of midfielder Adam Lallana’s expected return, Rodgers could hand striker Divock Origi his first start in a Liverpool kit. The 27-year-old Lallana has dealt with injury and poor fitness over the last month, and hasn’t seen the pitch since Aug. 17 against former club Bournemouth.
Meanwhile, Bordeaux embarks on their return trip to Europa contention after a one-year absence, with second-year manager Willy Sagnol now pulling the strings for the Ligue 1 club.
The Girondins didn’t qualify for last year’s tournament after slipping to seventh in the French league, but bounced back during Sagnol’s first season as boss to squeak in sixth place in Ligue 1 and dropped Kairat in the Europa playoff to sew up the return.
Sagnol and his attack’s leading scorers and forwards Diego Roaln and Isaac Kiese Thelin maintain a six-match unbeaten streak ahead of their date with Liverpool. Bordeax’s also relied on 22-year-old midfielder Andre Biyogo-Poko and his two goals in three starts.
However, the 1-0 victory over Kairat cost Sagnol forward Cheick Diabate, as he suffered a muscle injury in the Aug. 20 match and hasn’t played since. Last season the Mali international was second on the team with eight goals over 28 starts.
Bordeaux will also miss forward Thomas Toure, and midfielder Greg Sertic, who’s recovering from a torn knee ligament.
Kickoff Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1 USA
Prediction: Liverpool over Bordeaux, 1-0