After seven Premier League games, Liverpool go into the clash at Tyneside on Saturday looking to record their third consecutive win.
Only Arsenal have picked up as many points and head the table on goals-scored alone. Large part of this success has been the ever reliable England and Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.
With the return to fitness of Joe Allen, the form of Jordan Henderson and Lucas back from a one match ban, Brendan Rodgers should look to rest Gerrard because Liverpool cannot afford to lose their captain during the later stages of the season.
For the first time in a couple of seasons, Liverpool have a certain depth which they have lacked in their midfield. Luckily for the Merseysiders they have always had ‘Captain Fantastic’ to rely on and it seems that Liverpool’s form is often down to his form.
But after playing almost every minute of the Premier League so far, the Capital One Cup and the heroic performances in the successful World Cup qualifiers, an ageing Gerrard is going to burn out at some point.
I will be very surprised if Rodgers plays him the full 90 minutes. If it were up to me, I would not play him at all.
If Rodgers does decide to rest Gerrard (on the bench at least) the strongest formation in my opinion would be a deconstructed 4-3-3 where Lucas sits just behind a midfield duo of Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson with Coutinho playing a no 10 role just behind Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez.
So it would actually be a 4-1-2-1-2. This formation would see one of the three centre-backs that Rodgers has been using of late make way to play a traditional back four.
This could also allow for the strongest Liverpool bench I have seen in years with Brad Jones, Mamadou Sakho, Victor Moses, Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Martin Skrtel, Luis Alberto.
The great thing about having a player like Gerrard on the bench, is that if needs be he can come in and really change a game.
He can be defensive rock in the middle if Liverpool are a goal up and need to hang on, or he can open up the attacking game by spraying balls to the wingers or weaving deadly balls to the forwards.
This is the ideal time to test a Liverpool side who have relied so heavily on Gerrard for so long. In past seasons injuries to Gerrard have plagued Liverpool’s form and I believe that Rodgers should rest his captain and ponder the possibilities if Gerrard did pick up a knock. For the good of both club and country Gerrard should have a break.
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