Why Lazar Markovic's European ban could benefit Liverpool

Markovic's four-game ban in Europe could mean one fresh player for the domestic challenges, and opportunities for others.

Liverpool winger Lazar Markovic has been banned for four matches for his sending off in the Reds' final match of the Champions League group stages against Basel at Anfield.

As a result, the Serbia international is going to miss both the home and away leg against Turkish side Besiktas in the last 32 of the Europa League, and would miss both legs of the last 16 stage of the competition if the Reds overcome Slaven Bilic's side.

The ban could be used as a positive for Liverpool going into a crucial stage of the season. In the current system, Markovic has been used both as a wing-back as well as an advanced midfield player. These are areas where it seems the Reds have plenty of options, and rather than having a selection dilemma, it sort of forces Brendan Rodgers's hand - just a little.

Following on from their two games against Besiktas, they face two Premier League encounters which could prove decisive if they are to finish in the top four. They travel to Southampton on Sunday - who are currently four points ahead of them in the race for qualification, and the following weekend they host Manchester City at Anfield.

Should they progress, matches against Swansea City and Manchester United will be the league encounters that follow. All four games are likely to have a huge say in where they finish in the league table come May.

As a result, whether used from the bench or from the start in those league encounters, the Serbian being fresh could be a great asset for the Reds. 

Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Jordon Ibe are all players that seem to be in direct competition with the Serbian.

It's hard to see Brendan Rodgers use Coutinho as a second choice player in any of Liverpool's league games during this period, he'll be among one of the first players on the teamsheet, but Markovic can provide one of two things: more energy to take the burden off the Brazilian, or be the player of the attacking duo that plays for the full 90 minutes in order to allow Coutinho to be taken off to keep him fresh for the upcoming games. 

Also, the European game could be a good platform for Jordon Ibe to continue his development. After a loan spell at Derby County, the 19-year-old has put in two promising performances on his return to the side in two of Liverpool's biggest league games of the season, and the opportunity has opened up for him to get some experience in a different environment that he is sure to play in more often in the coming years.

There may be a bit more weight on the shoulders of Adam Lallana to spend more time on the field, especially with the absence of Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva in the coming weeks, but he could be another player that Rodgers may look to manage through this busy period, and could sit out a couple of league games.

With this particular negative, there is at least the positive that Liverpool will have a fresh player at their disposal to tackle the challenges on the domestic front. 

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