Football

Mamadou Sakho gives Brendan Rodgers something to think about

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The Europa League wasn't Liverpool fans' ideal competition to be competing in this season - for a club with a rich history, Kopites want their side battling for a spot in the Champions League on a yearly basis.

Nonetheless, a European competition is a European competition and a piece of silverware is what the Reds desperately crave after an almost four-year drought.

Thursday's 1-1 draw away against Bordeaux to kick-start their 2015/16 Europa League campaign also told Brendan Rodgers that the competition would be no stroll in the park.

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Based on the team the Liverpool manager took to France it seems that Rodgers is prioritising domestic form this campaign. After an underwhelming sixth place finish in the league last season - almost costing the Northern Irishman his job - improvements must be made in the league and recapture a spot in the top-four.

For some Liverpool players, it means that their schedule in the early part of the season will be smoother compared to last. The Reds faced six tough games in the Champions League last season and Rodgers selected his strongest side, except away against Real Madrid when a league clash with Chelsea was deemed more important.

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Every player at Anfield wants to be playing twice a week, especially against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich but trips across half the world to Rubin Kazan aren't the most appealing. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Christian Benteke and Philippe Coutinho will relish the opportunity to remain on Merseyside and relax in preparation for their weekend game.

Set in stone

During the opening five games of the Premier League season, Rodgers virtually had his desired squad set in stone. With the exception of Lucas, who has now forced his way back into his manager's core squad, Rodgers' stable side in the league is nothing less than expected.

Dejan Lovren's maiden season following his £20million move from Southampton wasn't the most inspiring and it comes as a shock that Rodgers has once again stayed faithful to the Croatia international. Pre-season suggested that Lovren would be given the nod to partner Martin Skrtel on the opening day of the new term and not Mamadou Sakho.

Once again Lovren has failed to prove his credentials at Anfield, and he performed sub-par in back-to-back losses at home to West Ham United and against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Pressure is on the 26-year-old and he, along with Skrtel, remained on Merseyside for Thursday's clash against Bordeaux. Whereas the pair may have thought their position in Rodgers' team was safe for Sunday's Premier League fixture against Norwich City, both centre-backs will be nervously anticipating the moment Liverpool's team to face the Canaries is announced.

Sakho calling

That is because Sakho performed so admirably across the channel and gave Rodgers no choice but to take note.

The Europa League and the early stages of the League and FA Cup were the only way that Rodgers' fringe players were going to thrust themselves towards a regular place. Many on Thursday had a golden opportunity, and Sakho certainly took it with both hands.

The France international made the switch from Paris Saint-Germain to Anfield in August 2013. He arrived with a stellar reputation being a regular for his country and captained his club at just 17.

Sakho has always been favoured amongst Kopites, and they've been urging Rodgers to start the 25-year-old for a decent period and now it seems the ex-Swansea City boss will have no choice but to drop either Lovren or Skrtel. 

Sakho was top-class against Bordeaux. Despite a lack of playing time, he performed like he had not been away and was a rock in what has previously been a frail Liverpool back-four. He was decisive throughout and lead from the front. A leader is what the Reds have sorely missed at the back in recent years, ever since Jamie Carragher retired in 2013. Lovren has failed to take to the task, and Sakho could come in and inspire against Norwich.

Homegrown absence

It's unusual for Liverpool to be without a home-grown player but have been in that situation since the departure of Steven Gerrard and the numerous injuries Jon Flanagan has suffered over the past 12 months. For Kopites it is important to have a local boy from the academy - they know the meaning of putting the Liver bird on their chest and the traditions and morals that the club stands for.

Jordan Rossiter has been tipped to succeed by many down the years. He netted on his debut during Liverpool's penalty shoot-out victory against Middlesbrough in the third round of the Capital One Cup last season, but did not appear again until he came on as a substitute during the Reds' draw against Arsenal last month.

Rodgers has some players competing for a role in the heart of the midfield, but Rossiter has given his boss yet another dilemma. The Everton Valley-born teenager was full of energy in the middle of the park against Bordeaux and looked sharp on the ball. His urgency, his work -rate and intelligence were all appreciated by fans.

In Liverpool's 3-1 loss away against Manchester United last weekend, they look a team that lacked passion and identity. Rossiter's solo performance in France certainly suggested that Rodgers does have the sort of players in his squad who will give 110%,  and go in for tackles that others would shirk from. Hindsight is a thing of beauty, and it wouldn't have been bad to have seen Rossiter play against the Red Devils - he could have performed no worse than any other of his team-mates.

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Topics:
Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers
Europa League
Football

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