Manager Brendan Rodgers spoke before the clash with the Red Devils about his squad rotation system – he played a number of his first team and key players, including 11 (including substitutes) who featured in their 1-0 defeat at Southampton in the Premier League last weekend.
The manager explained to Sky Sports ahead of the United game that his hands are tied somewhat due to the injuries he has to a number of first team players at present, compounded by the fact that he doesn’t have quite as much room for maneuver as, for example, David Moyes does with his United squad.
Liverpool currently have four players injured – Philippe Coutinho, Glen Johnson, new signing Aly Cissokho, and long-term injury to Sebastian Coates, with Daniel Agger just returning following his rib injury.
Meanwhile, Liverpool do not have the demands of the Europa League to think about this term – they finished 7th in the Premier League last term, in large part down to the pressure of playing on Thursday evenings but now, without continental competitions, or the League Cup to think about, Rodgers and his Reds squad have a huge advantage over their rivals in the Premier League and FA Cup.
After all, their season’s ambition is to qualify for the Champions League, the Europa League at the very least and they will face strong competition from Tottenham who spent over £100 million this summer, Arsenal who signed Mesut Ozil, Chelsea, and perhaps even Manchester United given their present league position and form.
It’s going to be a long old slog to finish in the top four – for all the clubs concerned – United, City, Chelsea and Arsenal will all be drained somewhat by their Champions League obligations, they will play their best players in that competition, no doubt about it, and the FA Cup has always been a competition with far more prestige than the League Cup which, for all intents and purposes, is probably the last trophy a top team like Liverpool actually wants to win.
The top sides in England tend to play their youngsters wherever possible in the rounds up to the quarterfinals of the League Cup and that’s because, with all due respect, they care least about winning it.
Now, with his squad restricted by some injuries and his heart and mind set on qualifying for European football above all else, Brendan Rodgers can take consolation from Wednesday night’s defeat – consolation that eases the pressure on him and his Liverpool squad and enables them to give their all and channel their energy towards their main aim and, in that silver lining, they’ll have a huge advantage, both physically and mentally, over their rivals.
image: © Michał Dubrawski