4 Liverpool Players Who Need to Impress vs. Notts County
Brendan Rodgers will likely change his team around to an extent, although he has already confirmed on the official club website that he will field a strong XI.
Playing alongside established starters and against a lower-division opponent, there will be pressure on the incoming players to put in a solid performance and push their own claims for future starting berths.
Here are four players who will need big games at Anfield for a variety of reasons.
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One of the most likely changes is up front, where Premier League hero Daniel Sturridge will get a well-deserved rest.
Fabio Borini has to be the obvious option to replace him, with the Italian left on the bench for the Reds' opening matches this season. He did, however, score a brace against Manchester United in an under-21 fixture one week ago, so should not be completely lacking in confidence.
Borini needs game time and goals to get his Anfield career back on track after a first campaign interrupted by injury, and he also needs to hit the back of the net to dispel a few doubters who are unsure he will ever represent a wise investment of around £10.5 million.
A start and a full 90 minutes wouldn't go amiss for Borini, but he needs to put in the performance to warrant it.
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Like Borini, Joe Allen has been on the bench for the Reds' opening two games of the season, but unlike Borini, he does not face exclusively in-form players for competition. While he is unlikely to take captain Steven Gerrard's place any time soon, Allen can certainly battle the likes of Jordan Henderson and Lucas Leiva for a spot in the starting XI, and his performances from around this time last season indicate he's certainly capable.
Allen lost his place after a shoulder injury contributed to a lack of form over the second half of the season, and he needs to recapture his ability to make Liverpool tick, rather than merely just fitting in, if he is going to win it back.
It is highly probable he will start against Notts County, although he really needs to dictate the match to showcase his form being on the upward curve.
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Defender Andre Wisdom is not exactly in the same boat as the other two players in that he is almost certain to have a long future with Liverpool—but in the short-term, might be heading out on loan.
Rodgers confirmed to the club website:
For us to maximise Andre Wisdom and his talent, I need to get him some games. The idea is to get him out on loan; but I can only do that if we bring in someone with a bit more experience to come in and support the group.
With Martin Skrtel and Seb Coates both out injured, Wisdom is likely to get a run-out at centre-back to give Daniel Agger a chance to rest.
If Rodgers signs a new centre-back before the transfer window closes, it might be that Wisdom is sent out on loan anyway—but this match is an opportunity to show the boss he is already ready, willing and able to step up and be a first-team central defender for Liverpool.
He spent most of last season at right-back but has played centrally this preseason, and if Wisdom is serious about being a regular for Liverpool in that role, this chance to start in that position in a competitive match—something Martin Kelly hasn't done yet, it's worth noting—is one which must not be passed up.
A dominant display alongside Kolo Touré, in all probability, will get Wisdom noticed—and will probably help Liverpool win the game, too.
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Finally, new loan signing Aly Cissokho is likely to make his full debut for the club at left-back, having come on as sub at left midfield against Aston Villa.
Cissokho is again different to the previous players in this list in that he is competing for a position which is very much available and up for grabs.
Borini and Allen have to show improved form to win back their places, but Jose Enrique at left-back has been on his own in that role for far too long and it has told in his performances. If Cissokho can get halfway back to his top quality displays for Porto and his early days at Lyon, then he will, sooner rather than later, be the Reds' new left-sided defender.
A game against Notts County might not be the one which wins him the spot immediately—certainly not this early and not in time for a match against Manchester United—but it could do the opposite if he doesn't play well, and prove he needs much more time as a backup before challenging the Spaniard.
To win his place as quickly as possible, and to prove he warrants the Reds making this loan deal permanent at the end of the season, Cissokho needs to hit the ground running against supposedly inferior opposition.