Liverpool take on Everton in Saturday at Goodison Park in what is always a heated game. Brendan Rodger’s men have been in fine form following the 4-0 win over Fulham before the international break.
Going into the Merseyside Derby, Rodgers faces quite a number of team selection headaches with the main one being who to play at left back following the news that Jose Enrique may require a knee operation and thus sidelining him for some time.
Aly Cissokho is the backup left back and one would expect him to automatically come in for Enrique but the French defender has not had the best of starts to his Liverpool loan spell and thus Rodgers may opt to go with young Jon Flanagan in that position.
“With Jose out, I’ve got Aly who came in as cover but I’ve also got other options like young Jon Flanagan,” Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo.
“Jon has been outstanding in training and he seems to be getting better and better.
“He did very well against Arsenal. He didn’t do anything wrong in that game.
“When he came off, it was simply because we wanted to be more offensive as we were chasing the game.
“Jon is a young player who will never let you down. Of course it’s disappointing if you lose your No 1 left-back for a few months but it’s an opportunity for someone else to come in and do well.”
With that said, let us look at who Rodgers is most likely to pick for this game. I am sure that Rodgers is going to stick with the 4-4-3 (or fluid 4-4-2) formation for this game.
Simon Mignolet will take up his place in goal in what will be his first Merseyside Derby. Mignolet still has a lot of work to do when it comes to ball distribution from the back but there is no doubt that his shot stopping ability is his greatest asset and he will have to be on his best come Saturday as he will be made to work hard by Everton.
With Enrique out injured and Rodgers hinting at Flanagan coming in at left back, I would like to see Cissokho given a chance to start the derby. Everton are a physical side and Cissokho will be able to match them physically. This is a perfect make or break game for Cissokho, with all the negativity surrounding him coming from Liverpool fans, he has the chance to really step up and play the game of his life and warrant a shot at being the new first choice left back.
Following Mamadou Sakho’s fine display for France in midweek, it will be hard for Rodgers to keep him out the side. There could have been a chance to play Sakho at left back but Rodgers has tried that before and it did not work out.
“We looked at that once and it didn’t quite work for us,” Rodgers admitted.
“It’s an option but we would prefer more mobility there. It takes away our offensive treat.
“I’m not concerned about that position. Cissokho and Flanagan can both play there.
“Whether Jon has played at right-back or left-back he has never let the team down.”
Agger and Skrtel started against Fulham and in all fairness did not do much wrong. Against Everton they will face a much stiffer task and need to be up for it. Based on Sakho’s form, I would like to see him start ahead of Agger and partner Skrtel in the middle.
Glen Johnson is the obvious selection for the right back slot.
Rodgers opted to start with Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson and Coutinho against Fulham and I expect him to keep it the same as that for the trip to Everton.
Lucas and Gerrard may be asked to sit a bit deeper and protect the back for whilst allowing Henderson to use his energy to get up and down the field.
Coutinho has been brilliant in linking up play between the midfield and strikers and he is going to be key in carving out opportunities for Liverpool on Saturday. He had a lot of space to play with against Fulham and I do not expect Everton to give him the same amount of space so he will have to up his game an extra notch.
It would be obvious to go with Suarez and Strurridge but both are a concern for this one.
Suarez has been travelling around the world with Uruguay for their World Cup qualifiers and only got back to Liverpool on Thursday night having been ferried by John W Henry’s private jet. So Suarez will have some element of fatigue but I would not expect that to keep him out of the derby. Hopefully is if fully fit and able to play for 90 minutes come Saturday.
Daniel Sturridge has been carrying a thigh injury for some time now and was made to play 90 minutes for England in midweek which just did not make any sense at all. No the question will be, how fit is Sturridge following this run out for England? I am sure Sturridge will start the game on Saturday as keeping him on the bench could be a psychological boost for Everton. You always want to best players in the side and starting in order to drive some fear into the opposition!
So based on that, my starting lineup prediction is: Mignolet, Cissokho, Sakho, Skrtel, Johnson, Lucas, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge
How would you like to see Liverpool lineup against Everton?