Limping Liverpool seek Champions League hope
Liverpool’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United Sunday did more than just give United a massive three points over Liverpool, and a total lead of five points over their rival.
It is now confirmed that Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana are both missing England’s Euro 2016 qualifiers due to injury, as is Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling.
To make matters worse, Steven Gerrard is to serve a three-game suspension for his deserved straight red card after less than a minute of play, and joining him with a suspension is Martin Skrtel who earned a three-game suspension due to stamping on Manchester’s David De Gea.
The loss of Steven Gerrard is a marginal loss at this point in his career, but as I mentioned a few weeks back, Skrtel has been the talisman in Liverpool’s defense this season. If Sturridge, Lallana or Sterling miss any significant time, the club could be in real trouble as they look to compete for a top-four spot in the Premiership.
It would be pointless to dissect the sleepy Liverpool-Manchester United game any further, but it is worth looking at the consequences of the loss.
Gerrard has not been a regular contributor for Liverpool this season, and players such as Lucas Leiva Emre Can and Jordan Henderson are all better starting options at this point, so his loss is not a heavy one for the squad.
The real issue here is replacing the other missing – or potentially missing - players. Sterling ranks as the best Liverpool player of the season, according to Whoscored.com, with a rating of 7.36, and Skrtel ranks second on the team at 7.35. Skrtel is third on the team in minutes played, behind only Mignolet and Henderson. Sturridge and Lallana come in with solid ratings of 7.07 and 7 respectively, and four goals each. Keep in mind Sturride has those four goals in just seven starts.
So what will Liverpool’s line-up look like come Saturday’s clash versus Arsenal?
The back three will likely consist of Emre Can, Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho, which should be a capable composition in the back end.
Ahead of them will probably be Lazar Markovic and Alberto Moreno on the wings, with Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva anchoring the midfield.
Philippe Coutinho will lead the strike force as the left winger, but the other two positions are open. Brendan Rodgers could opt to push Markovic up into the right winger position in favour of Glen Johnson or Javier Manquillo, and then have the enigmatic Mario Balotelli fill in as the central striker.
This line-up gives Liverpool a chance against a strong Arsenal side on Saturday, but missing so many key players at such a critical time in the campaign will likely come back to hurt Liverpool’s chance at Champion’s League football next season.