Liverpool vs. Roma: Predicting the Reds' Starting XI for Preseason Friendly

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2012

Liverpool vs. Roma: Predicting the Reds' Starting XI for Preseason Friendly

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    Liverpool face A.S. Roma in their second preseason friendly of the summer as they continue with their North American tour.

    Brendan Rodgers is likely to further experiment and rotate his squad to give as many players as possible some minutes on the pitch, after playing 23 players in his first game on Saturday, a 1-1 draw with Toronto.

    Added to the squad who took part in that game—and the three remaining subs—are the Euro 2012 players who have now all returned to training as a group with the first team.

    This includes all of the England call-ups, Denmark defender Daniel Agger and new signing Fabio Borini.

    Pepe Reina, who went all the way to the final with Spain, is the only first team player not involved in the squad.

    With that in mind, here is the predicted lineup for the Reds against Roma on Wednesday.

Goalkeeper: Brad Jones

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    With just one senior goalkeeper on tour with Liverpool at the moment, Brad Jones is the likely choice to start in goal again against Roma.

    Peter Gulacsi has enjoyed loan spells in the football league but is yet to make his Reds debut, while Danny Ward has traveled as a third 'keeper, but only plays for the reserves.

    Pepe Reina is on extended leave and Alexander Doni did not travel with the rest of the squad.

Full-Backs: Jon Flanagan and Jose Enrique

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    In a slight switch from the first preseason game against Toronto, we'll go with Jon Flanagan to come in at right-back in place of Andre Wisdom.

    Wisdom is a fine young player but clearly better suited to playing centrally, where he has a battle on his hands with Stephen Sama for playing time.

    Flanagan is tough, tenacious and fearless with more first team experience than the others vying for his place in the team, and he can provide more steel at the back for the Reds.

    Jose Enrique is likely to start again in the face of not much competition on the left hand side, with Jack Robinson still working his way back to full match sharpness after missing most of last season with injury.

Central Defenders: Jamie Carragher and Daniel Agger

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    Set to captain Liverpool again from the start, Jamie Carragher will retain his place in the centre of defence.

    Carragher played well against Toronto in his 45 minutes on the field, proving he can distribute the ball well enough and completing 100 percent of his passes.

    Alongside him, the returning Daniel Agger can make his first appearance of preseason.

    The Dane missed the Toronto match after starting training slightly later than the others in the squad, but will have had enough time on the practice field now to start working his match fitness up again.

    It will be interesting to see how Carragher and Agger play together again, having been separated as a pair for the majority of last season.

Central Midfielders: Lucas Leiva, Jonjo Shelvey and Alberto Aquilani

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    Alberto Aquilani, in the first half, and Jonjo Shelvey, in the second, were arguably two of Liverpool's most impressive performers in the first preseason game against Toronto.

    Not that too much should be read into such games of course, but if their ability and endeavour has been matched in training then they will at the forefront of Brendan Rodgers' mind for this game too.

    Both are keen to get on the ball and help both to prolong spells of possession and to look for a through ball to create an opening. And both are arguably playing for a spot in the Liverpool first team squad. Aquilani, of course, will be playing against his former club.

    Behind them they will require an anchor in the centre of the pitch, and the slowly-returning Lucas Leiva should be ready to step up his quest for fitness with a 45-minute run-out.

    The performance won't be there so he'll need help from his colleagues, but a full half of football will do the Brazilian the world of good after his extended absence.

Wide Forwards: Joe Cole and Raheem Sterling

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    Straight swap for the wide forward roles for the Reds as the second half duo against Toronto come into the starting line-up against Roma.

    Though Dani Pacheco did well in his left sided role and youngster Jordan Ibe looked dangerously direct at times, there was clearly a better impact and penetration with Cole and Sterling on the pitch—most obviously from the latter.

    Cole has a chance to impress and reestablish himself in the Liverpool team this season but needs to significantly improve on his performances; getting out-shone by 16 and 17 year olds in preseason will not do his cause too much help.

    Perhaps the best way for him to showcase his abilities is to steer clear of set pieces.

Centre Forward: Fabio Borini

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    The one player to start for Liverpool having just joined up with the squad this week will be the new boy, Fabio Borini.

    Handing a player his debut against the very team he's just left might just be too much to resist for Brendan Rodgers, who had offered the player more time off—but Borini wanted to get straight to work with Liverpool.

    For that reason, as well as the Reds not having any other senior forwards available, Borini could be the man to lead the line against Roma—for the first half, at least.

    Nathan Eccleston didn't and has not shown enough to suggest he should be fighting for a first team place, and Adam Morgan is still young enough to feature regularly for the reserves before targeting a starting spot for the first team, despite his dream goal against Toronto.

Substitutes Aplenty for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers

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    There will be a plethora of substitutions made by Liverpool again as manager Brendan Rodgers continues to give a good run out to as many of his squad as possible.

    Peter Gulacsi will likely play some part in goal, while defenders Danny Wilson, Martin Skrtel and Jack Robinson will also surely play at least half an hour.

    In midfield, Charlie Adam, the impressive youngster Suso and Jay Spearing will all be looking to get more minutes on the pitch and Pacheco and Eccleston should see more game time in the front three.

    Of those to have joined up with the Liverpool squad only this week, perhaps Stewart Downing and Martin Kelly might be favourites to see some time on the pitch as they had no involvement with England's actual matches during Euro 2012.

    Fitness and sharpness will again be the key aim for the game, but Liverpool will also have one eye on improving their tactical understanding of Rodgers' philosophies and ability to implement his ideas in game situations.