Bolton aren’t going to be pushovers when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday in the FA Cup, but with the main focus for the home club being on the second leg of their League Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Tuesday, a bit of rotation seems likely for the Reds. To that end, word came today that a handful of squad players have returned to full fitness, adding to Brendan Rodgers’ options for the weekend.
Having missed Liverpool’s past two matches through illness, Mario Balotelli is once again fully fit, and with Raheem Sterling’s minutes in need of managing and Daniel Sturridge still recovering, Balotelli could be set for his first start in some time this weekend. If his match fitness is lacking, though, a more likely option would be a start for Fabio Borini or Rickie Lambert, with Balotelli coming off the bench in the second half.
Joe Allen and Glen Johnson are also fit, and though they’ve both been off since the middle of December, both seem likely to be involved, perhaps from the start. If Rodgers sticks to the same formation that has seen Liverpool turn their season around, Johnson could start in place of Emre Can as the right sided centre half in a back three. Allen, meanwhile, could replace Lucas or Jordan Henderson in midfield.
"We’ll make some changes, but it’s a game we still want to win and our target is advancing to the next round," said Rodgers at his pre-match press conference when asked about the possibility that some of the players returning from injury could rotate straight into the starting eleven. "I’ve always looked to our squad this season, and we’ve got some very good players so we’ll look to make changes—but not too many."
Though both Sturridge and Jon Flanagan are back in practice, neither is in contention for the weekend, and in what will be seen as a blow to Sturridge’s chances of facing Chelsea on Tuesday, Rodgers wasn’t able to give a firm timeline on either’s return. As such, it seems likely that a very similar lineup to the one that faced Chelsea this week will face the Blues again next time around. On Saturday, though, there will be changes.
"It’s always a balance between consistency and rotation," Rodgers added, "but that’s something we’re comfortable with. We’ll make changes this weekend, but it shouldn’t disrupt the flow of our play."