A great chance for Damien Plessis today as he makes his league debut for the Reds away at the Emirates. Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has made a number of changes for this league game against Arsenal, the second of three matches between the teams in a week.
Liverpool’s two targets for this season now are to finish fourth and of course to go as far as possible in the Champions League. With fifth-placed Everton five points behind the Reds it was no surprise to see Rafa take the chance of resting some of his squad to allow them to be fresh for Tuesday.
Rafa’s view will be straightforward – if Liverpool were to slip up today they would still be no worse than two points above Everton, and have games left with which to open that gap up again. But slipping up on Tuesday and it’s all over in that competition, there won’t be any more chances.
So as well as Plessis getting his first chance, other players from Liverpool’s squad are being given an opportunity to remind the manager who they are and what they can do. Finnan is back at right back, so Carra’s back where he’d rather be in the centre of defence, alongside Skrtel, which allows Sami Hyypia a chance to rest his older legs. Alvaro Arbeloa gets the left-back spot.
It looks like Rafa is staying with the 4-2-3-1 formation that has worked so well of late. That would see Plessis, a former Lyon player highly-rated by Rafa Benitez, playing alongside the Brazilian youngster Lucas in the centre of midfield. The row of three in front of that normally consisting of Kuyt, Babel and Gerrard, is today looking likely to be made up of Riise, Pennant and Benayoun. Up front on his own in place of Torres is Peter Crouch.
This is a chance for Liverpool’s fringe players, and if they play to their best abilities it should still be a competitive match and the Reds will still be in with a chance of a good result. The attitude shown earlier in the season when Rafa allowed fringe players a chance in FA Cup games could see Liverpool embarrassed.
Arsenal: 24 Almunia, 31 Hoyte, 10 Gallas, 5 Toure, 30 Traore, 27 Eboue, 4 Fabregas, 19 Silva, 16 Flamini, 26 Bendtner, 32 Walcott
Subs: 1 Lehmann, 13 Hleb, 17 Song Billong, 22 Clichy, 25 Adebayor
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 3 Finnan, 23 Carragher, 37 Skrtel, 17 Arbeloa, 21 Lucas, 47 Plessis, 16 Pennant, 11 Benayoun, 6 Riise, 15 Crouch
Subs: 30 Itandje, 4 Hyypia, 8 Gerrard, 9 Torres, 10 Voronin
Referee: Phil Dowd