The international break can be quite the double edged sword. It gives some players the chance to get some much needed rest. It also gives other players a chance to sharpen their skills while serving their country.
Liverpool forward Fabio Borini did the latter, but he also aggravated an injury supposedly suffered during the Reds’ match against Manchester United back in September. Borini will be out for three months, leaving Liverpool with exactly one true striker on their senior roster. Brendan Rodgers has said he will not recall Andy Carroll from his loan with West Ham in January. There is “good news” for Liverpool fans though as the club announced 18 year old Spanish youngster Suso received a new, more lucrative deal.
Actually the real good news is that Liverpool return from the international break with one of the few clubs that WON’T be favored against the Reds for the next three months: Reading. And it’s at home, although the Reds have yet to earn three points at Anfield. You almost have to wonder if Luis Suarez will be “rested” this weekend on the bench. Brendan Rodgers literally cannot afford to lose the Uruguayan to any sort of injury, lest Liverpool’s senior squad be reduced to a reserve side overnight.
It’s just one thing after another. This nightmare of a season continues to get worse. I continue to stress that it would be better for Liverpool to get relegated, lick their wounds, and come back better than ever with a new outlook on life in 2014. But odds are the Reds will battle the Drop Zone the entire season only to finish in 15th. It will be truly fascinating to see what happens during the January transfer window. Notice how I assumed something will happen. There is no possible way John Henry can afford to keep his checkbook completely shut when the window opens after Christmas. American Liverpool fans like myself will also be watching the offseason for Henry’s “other toy”: the Boston Red Sox baseball club. I imagine Henry and Fenway Sports Group will be hesitant to make any big deals for either team, meaning Liverpool will have to continue to limp to the finish in the second half of the season. I’m pretty much throwing away all expectations for the Europa League too for that matter.
Of course, the real challenge at this point is filling out the front three in Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3 for Saturday’s match with Reading. Here’s my two cents…
Johnson – Wisdom – Skrtel – Robinson
Shelvey – Allen – Sahin
Sterling – Suarez – Suso
Obviously Suso’s new deal says a lot about Rodgers’ plans for him in the future. With Steven Gerrard as old and fragile as he is, it would be wise to keep him out for what is sure to be Liverpool’s easiest opponent this season. In fact I had to talk myself out of starting Adam Morgan for Suarez, but I don’t trust these youngsters THAT much. Not yet anyways. With Daniel Agger’s health also in question of late, this seems like a good spot to give Andrew Wisdom the nod since he’s had a decent season thus far. The same goes for Jack Robinson at left back since Jose Enrique also doesn’t appear to be 100% and, again, Saturday’s match is very winnable to begin with.
I’ve been pretty gloom and doom all season about this team, so the confidence I have in the youngsters for this weekend’s match should tell you how I feel about their chances against Reading. It won’t be easy, but the Reds should finally earn their first league victory at Anfield this season.
Prediction: Liverpool 2-1 Reading