Team news for Liverpool vs West Brom - Preview of the start of the Rodgers era
By Kevin Morley.
Since his appointment just over two months ago, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has talked the talk. In just under 24 hours it will be time for the Irish man to walk the walk as he manages his first Premier League encounter as Liverpool manager.
There will be no hiding place come three o'clock tomorrow and Brendan, being his own man, would have it no other way. The clearest indication that Rodgers is his own man will come in his first team selection. Selection and formation will say a lot about how Liverpool will approach the season under Rodgers and while this is a team that may not yet be equipped, or ready, to play the Barcelona 'tiki-taka' style, it is certain that Rodgers will put out HIS team. From the start of the season they will be sent out to play HIS formation and adopt HIS approach and philosophy to every game. If Liverpool fail to open their Premier League campaign with a win, there will be no blaming Kenny Dalglish, no suggestion this it was his predecessors signings who failed him, no looking to the past.
As we look ahead to tomorrow with eager anticipation, and confidence on the back of pre-season results, we consider the team Rodgers will put out against West Brom. A team that is likely to contain only two of the signings brought in by the previous manager, using only £27million worth of the men Dalglish brought to Liverpool for a suggested £100m.
Goalkeeper - Pepe Reina picks himself these days, one of the best in the world and a player who will not be leaving Anfield any time soon.
Defence - Again, the Liverpool defence is more or less self selecting. Last season it was still one of the meanest defences in the Premier League and this is an area of the pitch where Rodgers is hoping to make minimal changes. Glen Johnson, Luis Enrique and Martin Skrtel are all certainties. The only dilemma for the manager is who partners Skrtel. Ordinarily Daniel Agger would be a certainty and should take the second centre half berth. If Agger does not play it will be a clear sign he is on his way and we can ignore any comments about potential injuries and start thinking about a Liverpool FC squad without the Dane for the coming season. The only likely replacement for Agger seems to be Sebastian Coates who may just be coming good when Liverpool need him.
Midfield - Given the formation Rodgers likes to play, there is one less midfield place on offer than last season and there are no shortage of takers vying for places here. Steven Gerrard is the first name on the team sheet, with Lucas Leiva who can be relied upon to shepherd the midfield not far behind him. The final berth is likely to come down to either Jonjo Shelvey or new signing Jo Allen with the likely outcome that Allen will make his debut for the reds.
Forwards - Mobility in attack will be the focus under Rodgers and, given the personnel at his disposal currently, it is not too difficult to see who Rodgers will trust in the opening game. Luis Suarez would need to be banned to lose his place and Mr.Ferguson has not managed to convince the FA to make it an annual ban yet so he will play and is likely to be 'on fire'. Suarez is likely to be accompanied by Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing. The new signing from Italy will have his Premier League baptism against a West Brom side who could give him his opening goal. As for Downing, Rodgers is talking him up at present and he seems to be applying himself well in training so will get a chance to impress from the start.
Substitutes - This is where Dalglish will see his buys spending most of their time with Henderson and Carroll having a watching brief unless Liverpool are struggling. Jamie Carragher will add experience and versatility alongside the equally flexible Martin Kelly. The other two outfield players look like being Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling who has impressed in pre-season. This would leave a no-doubt frustrated Charlie Adam to not even make the bench.
Liverpool side vs West Brom: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enruique, Lucas, Allen, Gerrard, Suarez, Borini, Downing. Subs: Jones, Kelly, Carragher, Henderson, Shelvey, Sterling, Carroll.
Win, lose or draw this will be the start of the Rodgers era and he is determined to put his stamp on the team.