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Liverpool's Right-Sided Options vs. Crystal Palace

BANGKOK, THAILAND - JULY 27: Jordan Henderson of Liverpool FC wins the ball over Lucas Leiva during a Liverpool FC training session at Rajamangala Stadium on July 27, 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.  (Photo by Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images)
Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2013

Liverpool will head into their next Premier League match on Saturday in the knowledge that a win could take them above Arsenal, who do not play until Sunday, and back to the top of the league table.

It's early days for sure, but being top of the table is never a bad thing and can only bring more positivity to the dressing room as the Reds seek to vastly improve on last season's seventh-place finish.

Liverpool face Crystal Palace at Anfield and are expected to keep faith with their 3-4-1-2 formation, which has seen them narrowly beaten by Manchester United and winning against Sunderland last week, though they will be without Lucas Leiva in central midfield through suspension.

While there are a number of alternatives for Brendan Rodgers in his starting lineup, the obvious change appears to be to move right wing-back Jordan Henderson into the centre of midfield and bring a new starter in to fill the gap on the flank.

So who are the best candidates to fill in?

 

Alternatives to Henderson in the Centre

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Liverpool player Daniel Agger in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park on August 24, 2013 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Before looking at the wing-back role, we should acknowledge that Rodgers may opt to keep the England international in place and fill the centre of midfield by another means.

Daniel Agger could come in as the defensive midfielder, or else the Dane could play at centre-back, with Kolo Toure moving into midfield, a position he occupied earlier in his career.

Joe Allen would have been an ideal change with Lucas, but he is not expected to be fit until after the forthcoming international break.

 

Raheem Sterling

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 21:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool in action with Nathaniel Clyne of Southampton during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield on September 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Cl
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

When Lucas received his yellow card against Sunderland, Rodgers took the latter stages of the game to move Henderson infield and substitute the Brazilian, doubtless to give himself a chance to watch Henderson and Gerrard paired in the middle.

Sterling was the man who came on to fill in on the right flank, using his pace to break into space from deep and troubling the Sunderland opposition with his ability to run with the ball at his feet.

Sterling is clever in his ability to attack space, rather than straight line-running, when he attacks defenders and thus helps to draw another defender out of position—in turn, creating space for another teammate to run into.

He has also filled in at right-back in a back four for the first team against Notts County and the under-21s against Sunderland recently, making him a prime candidate.

 

Kolo Toure

PRESTON, LANCASHIRE - JULY 13:  Kolo Toure of Liverpool directs his defence during the Pre Season Friendly match between Preston North End and Liverpool at Deepdale on July 13, 2013 in Preston, Lancashire.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Toure played right-back in Liverpool's back four against Southampton, and although by common consensus, not to mention the result, it didn't work that day, Toure does get forward well and is aggressive in taking up attacking positions off the ball.

He's certainly not renowned as a great crosser of the ball but would be an interesting option when Liverpool have set pieces, is proactive at attacking space when the ball comes in off the other flank and is also far from afraid to run with the ball.

Toure can swap passes quickly as he moves into the final third and would certainly be a committed player to the cause, regardless of which position he plays in.

 

Andre Wisdom

SWANSEA, WALES - SEPTEMBER 16:  Swansea player Michu (l) beats Andre Wisdom to the ball to score the second Swansea goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Liverpool at Liberty Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Swansea, Wales
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Wisdom has had a tough start to the season with so much competition ahead of him, and his fleeting appearances at right-back have not quite gone as well as they did last season.

Ideally, he needs regular game time now in a loan spell, but Glen Johnson's injury has scuppered those plans for now.

Wisdom might get a crack at Palace from the start, and if he does, he needs to be right on his game to get further chances. He's quick, powerful and showed last season he can have an impact in the final third, while also being cautious and reliable with his passing.

He's not likely to start but is certainly another option.

 

Martin Kelly

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Martin Kelly of Liverpool U21 in action with David Moberg Karlsson of Sunderland U21 during the Barclays U21s Premier League match between Liverpool U21 and Sunderland U21 at Anfield on September 17, 2013 in Liverpool, E
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

If he was fully fit, there wouldn't even be a discussion. Martin Kelly has proven several times over that he is a top footballer, but injuries have prevented him getting a sustained run in the team and, even at 23 years old, proving he is part of the long-term future at the club.

So far, he has featured only briefly in competitive games after taking a year to recover fully from his ACL injury, so he perhaps doesn't have a full game in him yet.

However, if he makes the bench and Liverpool are winning after an hour, a spell at wing-back, where he can go full throttle and get back both some sharpness and some confidence, would be a great thing for Kelly and for Liverpool as a whole.

 

Prediction: Sterling to be handed his first league start of the season, a show of faith from Rodgers in a youngster who started last season in such great form before taking a well-deserved break. Sterling needs to put in a good performance but is more than capable of it if his attitude and buildup to the game are right.

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