Liverpool are taking Europa League seriously as manager Brendan Rodgers believes winning the trophy not only adds prestige, will induce winning mentality in the squad but is another gateway of getting into the Champions League next season.
With Lazar Markovic getting suspended for 4 matches, and Steven Gerrard yet to recover from hamstring problems, Rodgers needs to take a strong decision with his team selection for the Europa League tie with Besiktas.
Should Liverpool start with Mario Balotelli
Balotelli was slowly fading away into oblivion. After all he has done almost nothing since his £16m transfer from AC Milan in summer. It seemed like everyone had given up hope on him. Some said he is not suitable for Rodgers’s style of football, while other complained about his attitude.
Things can change in football, that too quickly. Faith in the maverick was restored after he scored the winner in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
He was introduced in the second half against Crystal Palace in the FA Cup and looked lively throughout. His involvement up front helped Sturridge making intelligent runs and it is from his freekick only, Lallana scored the winner from the rebound.
There could be a temptation for Rodgers to start with both the strikers and check how effectively they forge a partnership. If an experiment needed to be done, it is now.
Rest Coutinho and keep him fresh for Southampton
Philippe Coutinho has been playing at a stretch and probably needs a rest to regain his sharpness. The Brazilian has played a key role in Liverpool’s resurgence and therefore the club must ensure he stays fit and fresh throughout.
Despite losing Markovic, Rodgers has no sort of an option, as he can bring on the likes of Ibe, Sterling and Lallana, all capable of playing up front.
At the same time, Rodgers could be looking to use Coutinho for this tie and should Liverpool get a good result at home, he can afford to give the Brazilian the much-needed rest in the corresponding fixture.
Use Johnson in defence and bring Can in midfield
Joe Allen probably played his best match against Crystal Palace last week, but Rodgers can give him a rest with the Southampton fixture in mind.
With Liverpool shortage of manpower in the central midfield role, due to injuries to Gerrard and Lucas, Rodgers should be looking to use his resources wisely.
In that case he can use Johnson as right back putting Emre Can in the middle.