Fernando Torres is back in the starting line-up but the injury problems that have been with the Reds since the start of the season just won’t go away. As a result, central-midfieler Javier Mascherano starts at right-back.
The Argentina captain is considered the best choice for the position today with Glen Johson only just back in light training, Martin Kelly on the bench after making his own injury comeback – his third apearance for the club – on Thursday and Jamie Carragher needed back in the centre. Carra moves across because of Martin Skrtel’s broken metatarsal, with Sotirios Kyrgiakos’s in the last of his three-game ban.
Emilanio Insua also drops to the bench today with Fabio Aurelio taking his place. Lucas looks set to be partnered in midfield by Steven Gerrard, who drops back into a deeper role than he usually plays these days. Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Yossi Benayoun will be there to provide the service that Fernando Torres can usually do so much with.
Ryan Babel drops down to the bench but not because of a poor performance, David Ngog may well figure before the game is out if Rafa chooses not to overstretch Torres.
Liverpool will be hoping to send a message of “game over” to Sam Allardyce as early as possible, following his pathetic comments last season as he whined about not getting to have a post-match drink with Rafa Benitez. “Big” Sam’s comments in the past few days comparing Liverpool to his old Bolton side may well serve as motivation to help that happen.