Brendan Rodgers has indicated that he will field a strong side for Liverpool’sEuropa League first knockout round tie away to Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg.
With the match taking place just three days after Liverpool lost at home to West Brom and the Reds due to play again on Sunday against Swansea, Rodgers admitted he will rest some of the club’s senior stars, but added:
“There certainly won’t be wholesale changes as there were in the earlier rounds because this is a competition that we want to be strong in and we’ve now only got two opportunities to get through to the next round”.
Two players that will not be involved however are new signings Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, who are both ineligible having already featured in Europe this season for Chelsea and Inter Milan respectively.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have been showing a lot of improvement of late, playing incredibly well in 2-2 draws with Arsenal and City, and they would have probably won against West Brom had Steven Gerrard scored from the penalty spot when the game was still scoreless.
With Sturridge and Coutinho ruled out, Rodgers will either have to gamble that Luis Suarezcan play his way back to form rather than rest, or go with Fabio Borini as his main forward. Both are possible, and maybe Borini on the right with Suarez central and Raheem Sterlingleft looks the best on paper, but Rodgers will be wary of having Suarez--who's clearly been on tired legs the last two matches--included from the start.
After spending almost €100 million on the likes of Hulk and Witsel last summer, the Sky Blues were tipped to shine in this year’s Champions League.
However, they were utterly disappointing in group stage and only managed to finish in third place in the standings.
The team also experienced some problems on domestic stage, but there is still plenty of time to return to the top of the Russian Premier League, seeing they are just five points behind leaders CSKA Moscow.
Probable starting line-up Zenit. (4-3-3): Malafeev – Anyukov, Alves, Hubocan, Lombaerts – Witsel, Denisov, Shirokov – Hulk, Kerzhakov, Danny.
Probable starting line-up Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina – Wisdom, Skrtel, Agger, Johnson – Allen, Gerrard – Sterling, Shelvey, Borini – Suarez.