With a loan at Derby County roundly viewed as the perfect fit for his development, there was a good deal of positivity about the progression of Jordon Ibe. His performances over the first half of the season at Pride Park only confirmed that view, with manager Steve McLaren providing an excellent environment for the young player to learn and grow. It was with a good deal of hesitancy that he was welcomed back to Anfield, then, given that it wasn't immediately clear where the opportunities would come from.
Brendan Rodgers wasted no time in bringing Ibe in the side, however, giving him a start against Everton in the Merseyside derby and putting him in ahead of Lazar Markovice at the right wingback role. Ibe flourished, becoming one of the more important impressive attacking players in a Liverpool side that struggled to produce much on the front end despite an improved run of results.
Unfortunately for both player and club his impressive spell came to a halt through injury, with an LCL injury leaving him on the sidelines for the last two months. Rodgers will be happy to welcome him back on Monday night, then, while Adam Lallana--who's been out since the 2-1 loss to Manchester United--will miss out again:
"Jordon Ibe will come back in. I have got to say, he has looked absolutely sensational in training. He has been out for a while but he has been out on the field for a couple of weeks now, doing his preparation work and he has joined in training. He has looked absolutely outstanding - he has got real natural fitness. He'll come into the squad for Monday night.
"Some of the others that have been out are still out. I don't think (Adam Lallana) will be ready for Monday. We'll just see how that goes into next week."
Rodgers went on to note that Mario Balotelli--who first missed out through injury for the trip to the Emirates, and then was absent against Blackburn due to injury--will be monitored in the coming days, though even the most optimistic of Balotelli supporters would have to admit that an appearance, off the bench or otherwise, is unlikely.
Having Ibe back gives Rodgers a litany of options both tactically and in terms of personnel, as the young winger showed enough versatility to feature as the right wingback and further forward with direct running and blistering pace. With the manager shifting to a 4-3-3 at Ewood Park midweek, it'll be interesting to see how he lines his squad up on Monday, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Jordon Ibe play a part regardless of what Rodgers goes with.