The Europa League heads to the second game of the group stages on Thursday, with Liverpool set to host Swiss side FC Sion. After a decent performance and much-needed win against Aston Villa at the weekend, under fire manager Brendan Rodgers may have received a stay of execution. This game is a hurdle that needs to be cleared before the incredibly important Liverpool derby on Sunday. As a result, we're likely to see Rodgers prioritize the Everton match over this Europa League clash and field a much changed side from the one that won over the weekend.
Additionally, Liverpool are in the midst of an injury crisis, with several key players out of contention for the next few months. This could severely limit the manager's ability to rotate his squad and give key players a break. Last Wednesday he put out a strong side against Carlisle, which means that several first team players could play three games in eight days.
Also like last Wednesday, Liverpool fans will be expecting a comfortable victory against weaker opposition. If Liverpool revert to the form that saw them without a win in regular time for five matches, then some of the limited good will that Rodgers earned back from the team's win at Aston Villa will disappear. This match is a bit of a strange one, generally, due to Rodgers' precarious position at the moment. He needs to win in order to prove that the game against Aston Villa was no fluke, but that win can't be at the expense of the Everton match. No Liverpool fan will be content with a win if it's accompanied by an injury to another key player. How Rodgers chooses to set up the team on Thursday will say a lot about his state of mind, particularly if key players such if the returning Daniel Sturridge and injury-prone Mamadou Sakho are played.
Sion currently top group B thanks to a 2-1 victory over FK Rubin Kazan, which featured a brace from striker Moussa Konate. In the Swiss Super League, though, they're stuck in fifth place, thirteen points behind the league leaders, Basel, and under considerable pressure. After their 1-0 loss over the weekend, the club's chairman, Christian Constantin, called the team's performance "awful" and "pathetic" and told Swiss reporters that the players should be "ashamed of being paid." So Liverpool won't be the only team on Thursday with something to prove.
Predicted for Liverpool:
Touré, Škrtel, Gomez
Ibe, Rossiter, Allen, Lallana, Moreno
Bogdan may have earned another start after his unfortunately necessary penalty shoot-out heroics against Carlisle last week. The defense is up for debate, but assuming that Rodgers continues to go three at the back, and assuming he chooses to rest Sakho, we're likely to see Gomez and Touré play alongside one of Can or Škrtel, both of whom could use a break. Škrtel's general lack of injuries, as well as his seniority and authority in the back line, should earn him a place in the starting eleven. Barring a surprise start by Philippe Coutinho, the midfield picks itself. Moreno will start another game as well, since, through a problem of their own making, the team lacks any other wide players to relieve him. While Danny Ings, who has been one of the silver linings of this dismal early season, should also be rested for the derby, there's no one to relieve him. It will be interesting to see what that strike partnership looks like, and if Ings can duplicate with Origi some of the chemistry he showed with Sturridge.
Captain Jordan Henderson, Christian Benteke, Dejan Lovren, Roberto Firmino, and Jon Flanagan are all out through injury.
Kickoff is set for 8:05PM BST/3:05PM EST, with coverage from LFCTV Go, BT Sport Europe in the UK and Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports2Go and ESPN3 in the US. We'll be keeping you updated with all the buildup to the game, including team news as it's released, our live matchday thread and post-match recaps from The Liverpool Offside staff. If you want to join the discussion, sign up for an SB Nation account to have your say on all the action as it happens.