Liverpool have a big test ahead of them as their busy schedule sees them playing six games in the next 21 days. After the international break, the Reds see themselves without the services of six senior players.
Manager Brendan Rodgers however, is confident that Liverpool’s strength in depth, courtesy a very busy transfer window, will ensure they can cope with an early season injury crisis.
Daniel Sturridge is out for up to three weeks with the thigh strain he suffered during an England training session, while Emre Can and Joe Allen were also hurt on international duty. Can will be missing for up to six weeks after sustaining ankle ligament damage during Germany Under-21s’ 8-0 rout of Romania. He enjoyed a good outing in the game bagging three assists, but ended the game with an injury. Allen continues to have treatment on a knee problem. The midfielder limped away from Wales’ Euro 2016 qualifier.
Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel and Jon Flanagan, who were out in the last game against Tottenham, still remain on the sidelines.
Being without six senior players is a tough ask, especially so early on in the season, but Rodgers believes that Liverpool’s summer spree has given him the reinforcements required to handle the injury setbacks.
“We’ve been unfortunate,” Rodgers told the ECHO.
“Dan had started the season very well. His performance against Tottenham was excellent. He didn’t score but his pressing, his positional play, his speed, movement and hold up play was first class.
“He will be missed but we’ve got a long season ahead and the important thing now is to get him physically right.
“It’s disappointing for Emre as he was just starting to find his feet and get his fitness and his power back. He got injured when they were 6-0 up.
“Joe Allen is back from playing on an awful pitch and has an issue with his knee. He will be assessed for the weekend.
“Martin Skrtel won’t be available but should hopefully join up with the team when we train on Sunday. Glen Johnson still has a wee way to go and young Jon Flanagan is not ready to be back in the squad yet.
“This is why it was so important to strengthen the squad during the transfer window. We have options now and that’s key for us. We had a great window in terms of the calibre of players we brought in. We signed young players with quality and some with more experience as that’s what we needed. We were very specific about the types we were bringing in and they have all adapted very well. We did some really good business.”
In the absence of Sturridge, there will be plenty of responsibility resting on the shoulders of Mario Balotelli to lead the line against Villa. The £16million summer signing missed training due to illness on Thursday but Rodgers said that it was a minor issue and that won’t stop him from making his home debut.
“Mario has had a bit of a bug that we wanted to make sure he didn’t spread around the group,” Rodgers revealed.
“But he’ll be okay for Saturday. I think he has felt the warmth of the club since he’s been here and I’m sure he will look forward to playing at Anfield. He isn’t the only one. The same goes for the likes of Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana who will also be involved.”
There is no question that the Reds’ squad will be heavily depleted against Aston Villa tomorrow. This might see some young players on the bench as well. Fringe players like Suso and Borini, who are determined to fight for chances at the club, might find themselves getting those chances to prove their abilities and this would come as sort of a blessing in disguise for them.
Probable Line-up vs Aston Villa (4-3-3): Mignolet; Manquillo, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno; Gerrard, Henderson, Lallana; Sterling, Coutinho, Balotelli