It's finally here. That day when Liverpool have to find a result without Luis Suarez. Can you remember the last one? There were the Europa League victories over Young Boys and.....yep, that's about it. And they'll have to come up with a win at a ground where the hosts have kneecapped Chelsea and held Man City to a scoreless draw. Sounds fun.
What's the prescription? it's kind of clear that Rodgers has eschewed Yesil and Morgan, as they looked completely out of their depth. The last time Liverpool went without El Pistolero was at home against Young Boys, and that saw Shelvey as a "false nine" (I'm beginning to loathe this term. People think it works because Spain used it. But Spain only went to it because Villa and Llorente were hurt and Torres has never looked right with Spain since Euro 2008. And it really only worked once, the second time against Italy, as before it had got them a scrappy draw with the Italians, Torres started against non-existent Ireland and Croatia, before somewhat clicking against France and then needed penalties to get past Portugal. But anyway...) Shelvey could be a little heavy-legged from unexpectedly playing most of the match in Italy as well as the couple before it, but there seems to be little alternative.
We've seen Sterling pair with Suarez through the middle a couple times, but he's a little small to play the role. Though his pace could keep the West Ham backline pinned back a bit to give space to Henderson, Gerrard, Shelvey, or Allen in front of them. Gerrard has been mentioned as a possibility. But his aged legs wouldn't allow for the pressing from the front that Liverpool require. Other than that? Wouldn't seem to be much.
Whoever it is, it is this faithful supporter's opinion that all of Shelvey, Henderson, and Gerrard have to start. Because no matter who is filling in up top, it's going to be about getting numbers in the box regardless. We don't want Sterling looking up to see no one there. And all of those players do get in the box, or at Henderson might now after Thursday. Sahin does as well if placed high enough, which he should be with Lucas returning. But he's fallen out of favor in the league.
I'd have Shelvey with Sterling and probably Cole on the other side (I know, but he does get in the box more than a lot of other players on the flanks), and Henderson and Gerrard ahead of Lucas. Allen needs a rest after Thursday, and Sahin just hasn't fit in all that well.
It would be an awfully aggressive lineup against a team that put three past Chelsea, but Liverpool aren't as lost as Chelsea were then. Lucas can nullify Nolan, and if you do that you take out a lot of the Hammers' threat. Carlton Cole? Sorry, not buying it.
But it's a Fat Sam team, which means we can look forward to post-game quotes of how much his side cost and how much Liverpool cost, either in excuse-making tenor if he should lose or complete self-fellating if he should win. He's been an annoyance to us for a while. But at least you know what you get out of his sides: physical, dogged, direct.
Liverpool need to get on a roll too badly to think a draw is good enough, no matter what kind of form West Ham might be in. The Reds need wins. They need to string them together, which they haven't done after a Europa League match all season. I know, thin squad, tired legs, just not enough. I've heard all the excuses, and however valid they are or were, at some point a club worth a shit finds a way to break through all of it and gets a win.
Are you worth a shit, Liverpool?