Liverpool are facing a season-defining second-leg match in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday against Zenit St. Petersburg.
The Reds have to overturn a two-goal deficit after losing 2-0 in Russia a week ago.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has a mostly fully fit squad to choose from for the crunch clash but faces some key selection decisions to make.
As well as needing two goals to level the scores in the tie, Liverpool will need to maintain a solid defensive base in their side.
Having failed to score an away goal in the first leg—despite several presentable chances for star forward Luis Suarez—the Reds cannot afford to concede an away goal to Zenit at Anfield. If the Russian side manage to find the target, the game will be over in 90 minutes—no extra time can be played—and Liverpool will need to score four times to progress.
Liverpool are definitely without three players: long-term injury absentee Martin Kelly, recovering from a cruciate knee ligament injury, and ineligible duo Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. Both of the latter two, new signings in January, are cup-tied, having figured in Europe this season for their old teams, Chelsea and Inter Milan, respectively.
Martin Skrtel is also a doubt for Liverpool, having picked up a knock in training over the past few days. Manager Rodgers has confirmed he is likely to miss the game (via LiverpoolFC.com).
He is being assessed but I think he'll struggle. He got a little knock on his knee a few days ago and tried to train on it but made it worse. So it's highly unlikely that he will play.
The Reds are also without striker Fabio Borini, who dislocated his shoulder in the final minutes of the Premier League game against Swansea City on Sunday. Borini will miss most, if not all, of the remainder of this season, and his absence could be keenly felt in Europe on Thursday, with few striking options available to Rodgers.
With Borini and Sturridge both unavailable, Luis Suarez is the only other senior forward.
Even young strikers Samed Yesil and Michael Ngoo are unavailable. The former is out after ACL surgery, and the latter is on loan at Scottish side Hearts.
Krisztian Adorjan, Adam Morgan, Jordan Ibe and Jerome Sinclair were all involved with the Under-19s team on Wednesday, so they are unlikely to feature for the seniors on Thursday.
With no Premier League match for more than a week (Liverpool's game against Swansea was rearranged from this coming weekend), the Reds have every reason to play their strongest team possible.
That means the same goalkeeper and back four should start as began the last league game—Pepe Reina, Glen Johnson, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Jose Enrique.
Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard are sure to play in midfield, while Stewart Downing will occupy one of the wide roles of the attack, with Suarez central.
The remaining two positions—attacking central midfield and the other wide forward role—will be taken by any two from Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Jonjo Shelvey. Spanish youngster Suso is an outside bet to start but could be on the bench along with Andre Wisdom and one of the two reserve goalkeepers, Brad Jones or Peter Gulacsi.
LFC) February 20, 2013
If Jamie Carragher plays against Zenit St. Petersburg in the second leg, it will be his 150th European appearance for #LFC— Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) February 21, 2013
Very good performance from the Redmen,same result on Thursday please— Didi Hamann (@DietmarHamann) February 17, 2013
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard believes "only 1 or 2" players in football have performed better than Luis Suarez. bbc.in/11VynvD— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) February 20, 2013
BR: "It's such nights that have really made Liverpool what is it. We really need the fans tomorrow night." #euronightsatanfield— Liverpool FC(@LFC) February 20, 2013
A Russian journalist has just asked Brendan Rodgers if he should take his players to church to try and improve Liverpool's results.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) February 20, 2013
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!