The Reds begin their quest for an eighth FA Cup triumph away to non-league Mansfield Town this weekend but will do so without the in-form Jose Enrique…
After back-to-back 3-0 league wins over Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers, Liverpool return to cup competition on Sunday afternoon with a 3rd Round FA Cup match against Mansfield Town.
Brendan Rodgers will be hopeful of continuing the club’s rich tradition in the world’s oldest knockout competition but his plans have suffered a blow with the news that Jose Enrique will be out for around six weeks with a hamstring tear.
The Spaniard picked up the problem against QPR last weekend and Rodgers has admitted it was a big disappointment to learn he would be without the player for a prolonged period.
“He has looked fantastic in the games but it looks like he’ll probably be out for up to six weeks with his hamstring,” said Rodgers at his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“It’s a shame because in the game he felt nothing. Sometimes you can enter the games and be tight and stiff. He felt great.”
On a positive note, new signing Daniel Sturridge is eligible to make his debut at Field Mill after being signed from Chelsea for £12m on Wednesday. The 23-year-old striker will not be available for Europa League games however after playing for the Blues in their failed Champions League defence.
Rodgers may choose to give top scorer Luis Suarez a rest to accommodate the new arrival but in the long-term it is more likely the Uruguayan will move into a wider position with Sturridge playing through the middle.
The concept is one which Rodgers admits he has already discussed with Suarez and the player is no stranger to playing in alternative attacking positions after his time in Holland with Ajax.
“I think for Daniel his best position will be straight through the middle with his pace,” explained Rodgers.
“Luis will play for the common good of the team. I spoke with Luis at length on this subject a number of times. This has been the plan for a few months.
“When he played at Ajax he played in behind the central striker as a No 10, in between the lines. He also played as a reverse winger from the left side.
“Wherever he plays he will make the same movements and he will find the space because he is a world-class player. It is not a problem at all.”
Selection wise it is difficult to anticipate exactly how strong the side will be against Mansfield but Rodgers is likely to give a number of fringe and youth players an opportunity.
Brad Jones, Jamie Carragher, Jack Robinson, Nuri Sahin and Suso are amongst those who may get a rare start against the Stags.
Three players who will not be featuring however are Joe Cole, Adam Morgan and Oussama Assaidi.
Former England international midfielder Cole has re-signed for boyhood club West Ham United after an unsuccessful couple of seasons at Anfield.
Morgan has joined League Two side Rotherham United on a month-long loan and Assaidi has joined up with the Moroccan squad ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Elsewhere, Italian forward Fabio Borini is nearing a return from his broken foot and should be available for selection in a couple of weeks once his fitness is boosted by a reserve/U21 outing or two.
Defender Martin Kelly remains at least two months away from a comeback however following the knee reconstruction surgery he underwent back in September.
Jones, Wisdom, Carragher, Coates, Robinson, Lucas, Allen, Sahin, Suarez, Suso, Sturridge.
Vital Liverpool’s prediction: 1-4
Click here to read former Red Mark Lawrenson’s prediction
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