On the back of a pair of disastrous defeats in the league that have left manager Brendan Rodgers' position at the club as tenuous as it's ever been, a trip to face Bordeaux in the Europa League has signalled wholesale changes. It's an approach to squad management that in the planning stages at least has received mixed reviews and seems something of a lose-lose proposition for Rodgers.
However, it does at least mean that Mamadou Sakho will be given his first start of the season for Liverpool, something fans have long been calling for. If most had their way, he would have started the season as the club's first choice defender, and at the very latest he would been in the starting eleven come the Manchester United match. Finally, though, he will get his chance, and Rodgers insists he has full faith in the French centre half.
"Mama is a player we want to keep," insisted the Liverpool manager, who opened himself up for criticism when he gave the nod to Dejan Lovren as his preferred starter during pre-season after it appeared Sakho had won the job fairly last year. Many were left scratching their heads, and the French national team coach went as far as to suggest Sakho should seek a move away from the club for the sake of his international career.
After being signed for £20M in the summer of 2014, Lovren was immediately installed as first choice ahead of Sakho, with many objecting that he hadn't been tasked with doing anything to earn his place in the lineup. What followed was a disastrous start to the season, Liverpool's worst in more than 50 years, and while Lovren wasn't wholly responsible for it, he was consistently one of the struggling side's worst performers.
It took a long time for Rodgers to reconsider—too long for many fans given how poor Liverpool's start was—but eventually Sakho won the job back from him and, for a time at least, Liverpool's results improved. Now, he will get the chance to show against Bordeaux that Rodgers was wrong to hit the reset button and demote him to start the season. The real question, though, will be what happens on Sunday if Sakho does play well.
"It's been difficult for him," added Rodgers. "We won the first few games so it was difficult to change the team, [and] he was working on his fitness levels. We were always going to need Mama after the international break. We want to extend his contract at the club and for sure he will play."
- Europa League Coverage: Bordeaux vs. Liverpool, Thursday, September 17th
- Rodgers Pre-Match Presser: Out Of Touch, Out Of Ideas
- Carragher Says Rodgers' Preferred Approach Has "Never Really Worked"
- McAllister Talks up the Europa League
- Coutinho Insists Bordeaux a "Very Important" Match Despite Wholesale Changes