A much depleted Reds squad will arrive at Anfield tonight for the visit of Manchester City but there’s not much complaining to be heard from the club about that situation.
The defence is the place hit hardest by the injuries with both the full-backs Kenny would see as his first choice being out long term. Glen Johnson has played well during run at left-back, moving across the pitch to make way for Martin Kelly, the youngster who would probably have been a regular some time ago had it not been for some unfortunately-timed injuries.
Daniel Agger played at left-back earlier in the season when the poor planning of that transfer window saw Paul Konchesky’s signing delayed until almost the last possible moment despite Emiliano Insua having been frozen out. A decision was made that Fabio Aurelio, previously released by the club, could have a new contract but his injury situation has once again seen Liverpool get very little use from a very talented player.
Aurelio might be playing tonight, but such is his bad luck with injuries that there is always a question mark about him making it to kick-off without an issue. He’s the only recognised left-back remaining in the first-team squad and the Reds can’t ask central-defender Agger to move over to full-back as he’s another player out for the rest of the season, meaning Danny Wilson may get asked to do the same if Aurelio breaks down.
Dalglish is believed to be considering a start for 18-year-old right-back Jon Flanagan, a selection that would allow him to pair Carragher and Skrtel in the central positions. The alternative is to play Kyrgiakos with Skrtel and for Carragher to go to right-back. None of this is ideal, but Kenny and the rest of the coaching staff aren’t going to let it get them down.
And for every player injured there comes an opportunity for someone else to stake a claim to a more regular starting place. With Steven Gerrard another player out for the season the manager has some decisions to make in midfield and this could see Jay Spearing get more playing time.
Speo isn’t overly happy with his form last time out, but he sees that as a blip. That game was against West Brom and nobody in a Liverpool shirt came out of that match with a great deal of credit, quite the contrast to the demolition of Sunderland in the previous Reds fixture. The midfielder says: “I was very pleased with Sunderland, but a little bit disappointed with West Brom. I thought I didn’t get involved in the game as much as I would have liked to.”
He’s ready for what he knows will be a tough match: “I want to get back out there and prove I can play against the best players in the world, and Manchester City have a lot of them. This is one of the biggest games we’ve had so far this season.”
Time drags after defeat and Jay is desperate to show that defeat was out of character for the new Dalglish-led side: “After last week at West Brom we were all massively disappointed with the performance and we’ve had to wait a week to get back out there and prove to people we can fight at that level.”
European qualification requires a top-five finish this season and although the gap isn’t small Spearing thinks it’s wrong to rule Liverpool out completely: “We’ve got a lot to play for in these seven games. I don’t see why we can’t finish fifth and we can start by getting a result on Monday.”
City are having a good season, in line for a Champions League spot and one step away from Wembley, but Spearing wants to burst their bubble a little: “They’re willing to fight for the team. They’re in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, but hopefully on Monday we can start them on a bit of a bad run.
“We’re at home and after our last home game against Manchester United, I don’t see why we if we play the way we know we can at home, I think we can cause them a lot of problems.”
The boss has been pleased with the youngster’s performances: “Jay has done very well for us. He did very well at Sunderland and he did very well at West Brom last week.
“When he’s asked to play he always gives his best. He might make a couple of mistakes but then so does everybody. We are really pleased with his contribution.”
But for now at least Jay will have to accept that he’s not seen in the same way Steven Gerrard is. “Steven is the best, full stop,” said Kenny. “I’ve known him for years but it’s only since January I’ve had the privilege to work with him up close.
“He has been fantastic and often puts his club, and country, before himself and he has played when maybe he shouldn’t have. The work he has put in to get himself fit has been incredible.”
It was revealed late last week that the club had decided Gerrard should have another operation on the groin that he’d had such trouble with this season, an op that guarantees he’ll be out until pre-season. Kenny says Gerrard doesn’t deserve the bad luck: “He has put his body through the mincer to play and deserves a bit of luck over injuries. Hopefully the prolonged break to rest his groin injury will see him return as strong as ever and still the best midfielder in England.”
Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll are both expected to start tonight, meaning at least Liverpool have their first choice strikeforce ready to cause City some problems.