After 17 competitive fixtures in charge of his new team Liverpool, manager Brendan Rodgers faces up to the club he left in the summer for the first time. as Liverpool host Swansea City in the League Cup fourth round at Anfield.
Coming after a typically fast-paced Merseyside derby and just a few days before the Reds receive Newcastle United in the Premier League, some changes in playing personnel are likely for Liverpool but both manager and fans alike will expect the game to be one the home side can win, regardless of the starting XI.
Liverpool have not just a game to win on this occasion, but also a trophy to defend; the Reds are the current League Cup holders following their Wembley triumph last season and, as holders, will be a big target for every team to beat.
Several factors could come into play for both teams to see what the outcome of the match will be. Liverpool will start as favourites as the home side, but Swansea are not to be lightly dismissed.
Rodgers and Swansea
The now-Liverpool boss spent two seasons in Wales as manager of the Swans, leading them to immediate promotion to the Premier League.
Last season as the first non-English side in the Premiership, Swansea finished in 11th place and plenty of neutrals enjoyed their brand of attacking and possession-based football, a trait of the manager that ultimately saw him identified as the man Liverpool wanted to take them forward.
Swansea also lost midfielder Joe Allen to the Reds and wide forward Scott Sinclair to Manchester City; much of the final third of the pitch this season is unrecognisable from the team which did so well a year ago.
Michu, Ki Sung-Yueng and Pablo Hernandez now grace the field in a largely new-look front-six for the Swans, with Danny Graham and Leon Britton also not playing as pivotal a role as they did last season.
Though Michael Laudrup was brought in to continue rather than re-vamp the work of Rodgers, it is unquestionably a Swansea side with something of a new identity this year—and so is Liverpool, the team now almost unrecognisable to the one the Welsh side prevented from scoring in two games last season.
The last midweek fixture saw Liverpool take advantage of having consecutive home matches, and the same sequence is applicable here; following the home tie against Swansea, Liverpool are also at home to Newcastle next weekend.
As a result, Brendan Rodgers may select a stronger League Cup squad than normal, though he is also almost certain to allow a few fringe players more game time after leaving the likes of Sebastian Coates and Jordan Henderson on the sidelines last week.
Both players appeared as substitutes in the Merseyside derby.
Pepe Reina faces a battle to win back his place in goal after Brad Jones performed largely impressively in his run of three games, so Rodgers has a decision to make—does Jones, who played in the third round and who would be the expected League Cup goalkeeper, play a fourth match in a row? Or does Reina get a chance to show better form than prior to his injury, and a chance to win back his place ahead of the next league fixture?
With Luis Suarez as the only fit forward, and by far Liverpool's biggest goalscoring threat of the season, Rodgers must also carefully decide if he is fit enough to play a fourth game in 11 days, since playing at altitude in La Paz, Bolivia, and still have enough left in the tank to play a prominent role against Newcastle afterwards.
Liverpool and the League Cup
League Cup, Capital One Cup, call it what you want—Liverpool are the reigning holders of the trophy, which they won for a record eighth time last season.
Silverware wasn't enough to save Kenny Dalglish's job last year, but it remains the staple on which success is ultimately judged over time and Rodgers will want to get his first trophy up in the cabinet as soon as he can.
Should the Reds triumph over Swansea, they will already be through to the last eight of a competition that they will feel they have a good chance of retaining.
Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United are all still in the competition and provide big opposition to any trophy, but those latter two play each other and both London sides are facing away fixtures against Premier League opponents.
The route to silverware could well be open from the quarterfinals onwards, making victory in this game important for the future as well as the present.
Liverpool should be able to field a relatively strong lineup even if two or three big names are rested. The emergence of some talented youngsters leaves a few seniors needing game time, and Rodgers should be able to find room on the bench for maybe another starlet to be in line for a taste of first-team action.
4-2-1-3: Reina; Johnson, Coates, Carragher, Robinson; Henderson, Sahin; Shelvey; Downing, Yesil, Assaidi.
Who will emerge triumphant in this League Cup fixture?
Swansea will prioritise the home league weekend game against Chelsea, but that doesn't mean Laudrup will change his entire XI. It is already certain, though, that backup goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel will get a chance, after Michel Vorm injured himself at the weekend. Angel Rangel is also suspended.
4-2-3-1: Tremmel; Tate, Williams, Chico, Davies; Ki, Agustien; Dyer, Michu, Routledge; Graham.
Liverpool should have enough at home to keep their unbeaten run going and progress into the quarterfinals—stopping Swansea doing so for the first time in their history in the process.
A 2-0 Liverpool victory for Brendan Rodgers against his old side.