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Premier League Visit of Cardiff Gives Luis Alberto Chance to Shine for Liverpool

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Luis Alberto of Liverpool in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on October 19, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Karl MatchettFeatured Columnist IVNovember 26, 2016

Of all Liverpool's senior summer transfer signings, only Spanish midfielder Luis Alberto is yet to start a game for the Reds—but there's every chance that could change for the weekend fixture against Cardiff City in the Premier League.

Facing a gruelling schedule of five games in the next two weeks, manager Brendan Rodgers will need to utilise the entire depth of his squad to keep his team challenging at the top end of the table and in the running for a Champions League place over the second half of the season.

That will inevitably mean a certain number of changes will have to be made to what has been a relatively settled starting XI until now.

 

What Alberto Brings to Liverpool

His cameo at Spurs showed a real glimpse of what Alberto can bring to the side, as he helped pressurise even further a beleaguered home defence. His deft pass through for Luis Suarez's second goal, the Reds' fourth, was perfectly timed and incorporated great vision as well as technique.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Luis Alberto and Raheem Sterling of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on Decembe
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Applying both on a regular basis is what will earn Luis Alberto more game time, having featured for 132 minutes from his eight sub appearances so far.

His movement is good off the ball, and his versatility to play most roles in the final third counts for him too, but Rodgers perhaps needs to see more from him in a team-tactical sense before more starts are forthcoming.

At home against Cardiff, where the Reds should be looking to monopolise possession and territory, should be the ideal test for him ahead of bigger games.

 

Position?

Alberto has already featured both wide left and in a No. 10 position when coming off the bench, while he is certainly also capable of playing an offensive central midfield role.

Against Cardiff, Rodgers' selection is likely to be determined by a mix of who could do with a couple of days' extra rest before the post-Christmas-day crush of fixtures and having enough creativity on the pitch to be able to break down Cardiff if they opt to defend in numbers with little offensive intent.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers waves prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 7, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Given the last few home games against bottom-half opposition, quite possibly the "Steven Gerrard role" would be best-suited for Alberto to operate in: the second central midfielder who can pick up possession in space and look to play forwards but who also has some licence to venture forward into dangerous areas.

 

Who Makes Way

This will be decided by where Alberto starts, if he is handed the opportunity at all.

If he comes into the attack, a game (or part of one) on the sidelines for either Raheem Sterling or Philippe Coutinho would not be the end of the world, but perhaps the Brazilian in particular could do with a small break as he works back to full fitness. Sterling on the other hand is just hitting top form again, and leaving him on the side should be the best policy.

However, if Alberto is given Gerrard's position, it is likely that Lucas Leiva will make way as Liverpool opt not to play a full-on defensive player in midfield.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Joe Allen of Liverpool competes with Mohamed Diame of West Ham United during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on December 7, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

That would enable Joe Allen to play as the deepest midfielder with Alberto ahead, with Sterling, Coutinho and Jordan Henderson ahead in the attacking triumvirate behind Luis Suarez.

Alberto has a lot to offer Liverpool, and although he's some distance from being the finished product or even being a realistic option to start five or six games in a row, he does need to get the experience of starting a game before it's forced upon Rodgers against opposition such as Chelsea.

A quick breather for a regular starter, a big boost for Alberto in showing that his bench appearances are being noticed—and, the team in general would hope, another three points en route to the top four. This looks to be the best game for the young Spaniard to be handed a chance, and it will be up to him to show he's capable of performing at a high level for 60 or 70 minutes rather than just 10 or 20 at a time.

Luis Alberto's Liverpool career might really have started with the assist against Spurs, but Cardiff might mark his first chance to have a genuine telling impact.

 

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