It's a question nobody likely would have expected when Brad Jones signed two years ago. It's probably not even a question anybody would have thought possible a month ago. Today, though, with Brad Jones coming off back to back clean sheets while Pepe Reina, for many Liverpool's presumptive starting goalkeeper now and for the foreseeable future, is returning from a hamstring injury that interrupted the start of what was quickly becoming another inconsistent season for the Spanish international, it's a question we now have to ask: Who should start on Sunday, Jones or Reina?
Sitting Reina even if the medical staff clears him could be seen as a smart preventative move—Jones, after all, is playing well, and given the club's history of rushing players back into action too soon there's an argument for playing things safe if there are other legitimate options to fill the role. Then there's the motivation argument, as some believe that Reina's decline at Liverpool is due to a lack of competition for the goalkeeper rather than a case of changing position coaches or styles of play. Sitting the keeper for what is always one of the club's biggest games of the season, then, would send a strong message that he will have to fight for a job he may have started to complacently view as his no matter what.
On the other hand, while competition is often considered a good thing for most roles in football, it's relatively rare for a big name keeper to have to fight for minutes. Goalkeepers are often considered a different breed amongst players, and while competition on the wing might usually be seen as a good motivational tool, if Reina views being sat for the derby as a vote of non-confidence from his manager it could lead to a further drop in performance and all but seal the player's departure come next summer.
And at the end of the day, no matter that Jones has arguably played better in his last two matches than Reina has all season, few would likely argue that when both players are on form he is a better keeper than the Spaniard. Reina may once again be struggling to find consistency under Brendan Rodgers as he previously did under Kenny Dalglish, Roy Hodgson, and in the final year of Rafa Benitez' tenure, but most will feel his ceiling is still that of one of the best stoppers in world football.
Though then, of course, the flip side to that argument is that this is now the fourth manager and fourth season that Reina has struggled in. While Jones has stopped all seven shots on target over his past two games, in league action so far this season Reina has only stopped one of every two goalbound efforts. Further complicating matters is that despite being considered one of the best—and perhaps the best—sweeper keepers when on his game, he's at times struggled mightily to adjust to Rodgers' philosophy that insists even the goalkeeper must be willing and able to play with the ball on the deck.
Because of all that and based on form alone right now, this season, and ignoring past exploits and name recognition and expectations and all the rest, there's a very strong argument suggesting that Brad Jones gives Liverpool the best chance of winning on Sunday. He may not be as good as Reina is at his best, and he may not be seen by many as a potential long term solution for the club in goal, but in his last two appearances he has been better than Reina so far has this season.
And so the question falls to you: If you were selecting Liverpool's starting goalkeeper for Sunday's match against Everton, who would you start? Pepe Reina, or Brad Jones?