Heading into a match against European giants Real Madrid on Tuesday, Brendan Rodgers surprised many by naming an almost wholly changed side. Given how disappointing Liverpool's performance had been against Newcastle over the weekend, it was hard to say those changes weren't justified.
Still, given Rodgers has appeared to have a favoured group of starters so far this season, it was hard not to entirely escape the feeling that a heavily changed squad here spoke to something of a capitulation. The manager appeared to have players he considered clear starters and those he considered reserves at best, and here he was sending out the reserves.
"I put out the best team that I thought could get the result on Tuesday," Rodgers fired back at his pre-Chelsea press conference today. "I think the criticism was a disservice to them, and I think they were magnificent. We had a plan to try and stay in the game, to control the game, against the best team in the world right now and then to open things up with our subs."
If, in the end, a strong showing against the best team in the world vindicated Rodgers, those substitutes didn't have their intended impact. Raheem Sterling did no better than Lazar Markovic, both willing runners who offered little goal threat on the night. Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho, meanwhile, were unsuccessful in their attempts to add creation in midfield.
In the end, though, it was a sound plan, and in a week where other English sides have failed to impress in European play, there's a case to be made that Rodgers' reserves are the ones who gave the best accounting of themselves. Now, the question becomes whether their performances can change who Rodgers sees as substitute and stater.
"To call Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva, or Adam Lallana a 'reserve' does them a disservice," added Rodgers, which despite being a worthy sentiment does rather miss the point that many of the people who labelled them reserves only did so based on how Rodgers himself has used them so far this season. "They deserve more praise than that."
On Tuesday's performances, it's hard to argue with that at least. Hopefully, then, moving forward they'll be given enough playing time that they won't be confused for reserves the next time Rodgers sends them out.