Pre-Oldham Lookahead

Yet again, Liverpool face League One side Oldham Athletic this season. If the Hull victory was not about revenge, this one certainly will be. Brendan Rodgers will want his side to do much better against the team, now bereft of Didier Drogba-esque forward Matt Smith, and by doing better, meaning whip them.

Still, Rodgers has to consider the tiredness of his players. In an ideal world, he will set out his first-choice starting eleven in the only other competition besides the Premier League – the FA Cup – especially with the absence of Champions League football. However, after a hectic December where his Reds side went to the Etihad, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane, and with Stoke’s Britannia Stadium next on their road trip, Rodgers has to consider a much-changed side to face Lee Johnson’s Latics.

For all of Luis Suarez and Jordan Henderson’s ultra-determination to play through the pain barrier, even Rodgers must admit, it is time they got a rest. He will definitely want the energy levels of the ultra-energetic Henderson to be 100%, if not more, and Rodgers will always want the amazing and mercurial Suarez to be as fit as he can be for the tough trip to Stoke next weekend.

Let’s face it, if a Liverpool side filled with some second-stringers alongside a few regulars cannot beat a side languishing in 19th position two divisions below the Premier League, what is the point of a cup run this year? If Liverpool need their first-team to defeat Oldham, at Anfield, then the subsequent reliance on first-teamers in the latter stages of the FA Cup will be really detrimental to Rodgers.

By then, he will have a dilemma, whether to go for the Cup and a top 4 spot, or just focus on the top 4 spot, and say, fall at the semis, which at that point, no fan would want. Morale would be severely impacted should Liverpool just miss out on a potential Wembley final.

In defence, Glen Johnson and Martin Skrtel need to sit out, especially since the former came off with a slight knock against Hull. Whether Simon Mignolet or Brad Jones keep goal is a small matter, really. Martin Kelly, still on his long road to match sharpness, should really get a go at right-back, while Kolo Toure will shift alongside Daniel Agger in the centre. Aly Cissokho keeps his place, as much due to his performance against Hull as that he is the only senior left-back.

Ideally, Lucas should get a break too. But with Joe Allen out and Henderson really needing a break from getting kicked by the opposition, there is no one else other than 16 year old Jordan Rossiter. Most around Anfield will pray Lucas comes out unscathed. Captain Steven Gerrard will probably come back into the side to get his match fitness back, he did look slightly out of sorts coming on against Hull.

Up front, no brainer. Iago Aspas must get his chance to prove he is no flop, and give Suarez a much-deserved break. If Aspas still does not flourish, or merely improve, against a League One side in his favoured centre-forward position, I really fear for his Anfield career.

Behind Aspas, one of Raheem Sterling or Philipp Coutinho need a rest. My guess is that Coutinho comes out of the firing line, but takes his place on the bench, while Sterling tries to stretch what will probably be a parked bus and get beyond Aspas. Victor Moses will start as well, he did show some signs of good play against Hull, linking up well with fellow substitute Toure down the right flank. Luis Alberto should take Coutinho’s place as chief playmaker, and show that he has the potential to affect league games in the second half of the season. Other probably participants could be Jordon Ibe, who might be the man to replace Sterling.

Even though Oldham will put up a fight, one can only expect a home banker really. Liverpool should win – should.

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