Player Rotation down the stretch, time to roll the Dice

If Liverpool advances to both the FA Cup final and the Champions League semi-finals (and beyond) they will be playing twice a week every week for a 2-month stretch. For any squad this requires a degree of managed minutes, putting out a side that’s strong enough to keep winning while not burning players out.

And winning is the key! Any draws are barely acceptable! To win the Premier League Liverpool may well have to win all eight remaining matches. You have to win the FA Cup semifinal to advance, and the Champions League requires at least a win and a draw per round, or a better goal difference, or penalties. There is almost no room for error.

Liverpool’s front line is in great shape to take this on! Five high-quality forwards are quite adequate to provide cover, rotation, and optional change-ups during the game. Then there’s always Minamino and Origi to fill in a few cracks as situations allow and/or dictate.

Midfield options are plenty. But how many can we count on?

The Midfield is More of a Concern!

The club has the numbers and the key parts are there. But LFC depends heavily on two of three between Fabinho, Henderson, and Thiago to be on the field at all times. The latter two, especially Thiago, have durability issues as does Milner, who would be the next one that understands how the side locks down the center of the field.

Keita gets the job done if playing with two of the above four but loses effectiveness if asked to become the second man in the mid. The talented Jones still struggles to fulfill a possession role; Elliott remains a project while finding an effective role for Ox seems to be increasingly difficult.

Balancing the minutes for the main guys in the midfield will be the biggest key for Liverpool finishing the season with more silverware. They have the mental energy to put it out for 90 minutes twice a week, but other than Fabinho they may not hold up physically.

How About the Defense?

The return of Joe Gomez in defense has been a huge plus. Marginalized for most of the season as he came back to fitness he’s put in two really solid games deputizing for the injured Alexander-Arnold. This has advanced the intriguing possibility of rotating defenders.

Some of the remaining fixtures are against opponents that Klopp may decide to roll the dice a little. Against Aston Villa, Newcastle United, Southampton, and Wolverhampton Wanderers the Manager could go with Tsimikas at left-back or Gomez on the right. Additionally, Konate will probably feature at least twice more down the stretch, adding to his appearance against Benfica. Matip, another player with some fragilities, can subsequently be monitored carefully.

What’s Next?

Fitness issues are always a concern as I mentioned with several players but with others, it’s more about the mental energy. Forwards in particular thrive on a fresh producing moment of genius, and it’s why the ability to change up the front line is a vital option.

Rotation was certainly the name of the game against Watford and Benfica as Liverpool used seventeen different starters over the two games and a total of eighteen altogether as Milner was limited to late substitute cameos.

With the healthy 3-1 win over Benfica, Liverpool will be more relaxed about picking exactly the side they need to have the best chance of beating Manchester City on Sunday. Both sides have to play Champions League games again three days later but City is looking at a much harder trip that they will have to be mindful of. Onwards to the FA Cup Semis on the 16th (against City) both teams will have the same amount of preparation time but Liverpool will have the advantage of not traveling home from Spain. All of this bodes well for Klopp’s team and their chances of success on all 3 fronts remaining.

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