5 Liverpool Players with a Point to Prove Against Celtic
Liverpool have just one preseason friendly left to play against Glasgow Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday afternoon before they finalise preparations ahead of the new Premier League season, which gets under way on August 17. There are still plenty of Reds players with a point to prove against the Scottish Premier League (SPL) champions.
The Merseysiders have so far enjoyed an impressive summer of warm-up fixtures with which to fine-tune team matters going into the 2013/14 campaign; however, it would be misguided of head coach Brendan Rodgers to think that all is rosy in the Liverpool garden as they await their first top-flight challenge against Stoke City.
In fact, a number of first-team squad members have much to prove to the Northern Irishman ahead of that opening encounter with the Potters a week on Saturday. Their last chance to do so is the clash against Neil Lennon’s Hoops.
And these are the five Reds players with most to show against Celtic on Saturday.
The experienced Ivory Coast international now seems pencilled in to start the new season as Daniel Agger’s partner at the back for Liverpool. He has been consistently chosen ahead of Martin Skrtel for the role throughout preseason.
And with the Reds having been parsimonious in defence so far this summer, it appears as though Rodgers has made the right call here, especially in light of the question marks surrounding Skrtel’s future at Anfield.
However, there are doubts about Toure’s age and waning pace. It must also be remembered that the 32-year-old has only featured in 29 Premier League games for previous employers Manchester City in the past two seasons.
Consequently, he has much to prove going into the new campaign. The friendly at Celtic Park on Saturday is the centre-back’s final chance to dispel those concerns ahead of the top-flight opener with Stoke.
It has not been the most eye-catching of preseasons so far for the sometime England international, and judging by his manager’s selections during the summer warmups, the writing appears to be on the wall for Downing in terms of beginning the new campaign in the starting XI.
However, that is not a new situation for the 29-year-old. He had to convince Rodgers of his value ahead the previous campaign as well.
And if the hit-and-miss wide man features against Celtic on Saturday, then he must grab his opportunity with both hands and prove that he deserves to force his way back into the first-team reckoning at Anfield.
The worry, though, is that he appears to be fighting with compatriot Raheem Sterling for the one available role left in Rodgers’ favoured 4-3-3 setup, with Philippe Coutinho and either Daniel Sturridge or Iago Aspas, depending on the former’s fitness, certain to fill the other slot in the front three positions.
The Welshman endured an injury-interrupted debut campaign on Merseyside last time out. He did not feature for the Reds again after having corrective surgery for a debilitating shoulder injury back in March.
As a result, the 23-year-old has spent most of preseason trying to prove his fitness and that he has successfully recovered from his operation. He has done so, judging by the amount of mileage he has clocked up so far this summer.
However, after joining the club for an eyebrow-raising £15 million from Swansea City last August—making him the most expensive footballer in Welsh history in the process—it is fair to say the holding midfield player still has plenty to prove.
And not just in terms of his price tag or living up to his manager’s ambitious Xavi Hernandez comparisons, but more so when it comes to playing the role of defensive midfield player at Anfield.
All of which means the Wales international will be desperate to put in an eye-catching display alongside fellow midfield player Lucas Leiva in front of the Liverpool back four when they take on Celtic on Saturday.
It is often like having a new signing when a player returns to action following a spell on the sidelines, which is how Rodgers must feel following Sterling’s comeback from injury during preseason.
The exciting England international enjoyed a wonderful first half to the last campaign, before a succession of niggling injuries, combined with his manager’s wish to keep the youngster out of the firing line after January, resulted in Sterling missing most of the second half.
However, the wide man has since returned to action this summer looking like a man possessed, chomping at the bit and desperate to prove his worth to Rodgers once more. The Northern Irishman responded by giving Sterling a prominent role up front in his preferred 4-3-3 formation.
And yet at times it is hard not to forget that this is an 18-year-old we are talking about with just 27 Premier League appearances to his name, which goes some way toward explaining the winger’s often profligate finishing in front of goal and poor final ball.
Sterling will therefore be working hard on those two key aspects of his game when he comes up against Celtic on Saturday.
The misfiring Italy international now has just one more preseason fixture against Celtic on Saturday to press home his first-team claims. The front man will need to turn in a memorable display against the SPL champions if he wishes to leapfrog Aspas in the current pecking order of strikers at Anfield.
On present showing, the Reds’ new Spanish acquisition is in line to start the new campaign up front in place of the injured Sturridge and the unsettled Luis Suarez after shining in attack throughout the summer.
However, Borini has much to play for and prove against Celtic, if selected—namely that he can be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net.
And the best way for him to demonstrate that his worth in the starting lineup is to find the target against the Scottish giants on Saturday.