Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers could drop captain Steven Gerrard for their key clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu tomorrow night.
Gerrard has been in the headlines this week as speculation over his future continues, and if Rodgers does decide to drop him to the bench for the key clash then it is likely to raise more questions.
According to the Telegraph, the Liverpool boss is considering making one of the biggest decisions during his tenure at Anfield by dropping his most experienced player for his biggest game in charge. The logic behind his thinking appears to be a desire to keep the 34-year-old fresh for the Premier League ahead of their showdown against Chelsea, although it is unlikely to be welcomed by the club's fans.
The showdown comes after a 1-0 defeat against Newcastle which left Liverpool seventh with 14 points from 10 games. “It is something I need to look at,” Rodgers said when quizzed about the possibility of rotating Gerrard.
“He and I have spoken about that - three big games this week, Newcastle [last weekend], Real Madrid and then Chelsea. I need to look at a number of players to look at the games we want them to play in. We will see how that shapes up.
“In Steven’s case, if he is playing on Saturday I have to look at what is the priority for him and us. We brought in other players and there is responsibility there."
“I don’t see it as a gamble. This week and these games against the likes of Real Madrid I see as a great opportunity for the squad. You put them out there and you put your trust in them to perform. All I will do as the manager is give them that opportunity to perform. We have got three high-level games in a week and I have to think about that in preparation for the weekend. I also understand that we have to have a team that can come here and win and that is what we want to do.”
If Gerrard does miss out, it is difficult to predict who may step into his place. Lucas Leiva may come in as a direct replacement but has been out of favour, while Rodgers may opt to deploy a diamond in midfield with Jordan Henderson moving to the base where Gerrard would usually operate.
When quizzed about whether the Premier League was his priority over the Champions League, Rodgers responded: “Always. For me, at this moment, if we want to develop we need to ensure we are in the top four,” he said. “But we also want to qualify from this group and we will never know if these players can perform if we don’t put them in the team. We have spent an awful lot of money on players to come in and give them an opportunity to perform.
"If at the end of this cycle of games they haven’t performed, they can never say they haven’t been given a chance. Whether it is Real Madrid, Newcastle or Chelsea, I am putting my faith in these players. That is not being pragmatic. It is why you have a squad to come and get results. Whatever happens against Real Madrid, we will look to get a result on Saturday.”
In an attempt to prepare for the Chelsea game, the Mirror add that Liverpool may also choose to rest Raheem Sterling. The timing of Rodgers decision is interesting given Gerrard's comments in a recent interview when he hinted he could move on when his contract expires in the summer.
Liverpool currently have three points from their first three Champions League games, leaving them level with group rivals Basel and Ludogorets with Madrid well clear.