Philippe Coutinho was probably Liverpool's best player on Tuesday night against Swansea City, but Fabio Borini did himself no harm with an energetic and impressive 90-plus minutes in the dramatic 2-1 win. The 23-year-old was back in the squad for the first time since the 2-1 win over West Brom earlier this month, and made his first start--and first appearance--since the 3-1 loss at West Ham late last month.
For the most part, the Italian forward made it count, providing the assist for Mario Balotelli's equalizer in the 86th minute and turning in a typically industrious shift on the right side of Liverpool's attack. He'd likely have been better used in a more direct striking role, especially given the struggles of Rickie Lambert to create much on his own as the lone striker, but he still had a quality showing despite the lack of playing time to this point in the season.
His pressing without the ball led to a number of Liverpool counters, and he managed to force backup Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel into a couple of good saves in the first half. And, as mentioned, his cross for Liverpool's first was superb, finding Balotelli through a few Swansea defenders, a rare moment of quality in an attacking contingent that's been struggling to do much of note in front of goal.
So with Liverpool set for a trip to Newcastle on Saturday in the Premier League, Borini's performance creates a fairly obvious question--was it enough to warrant another start?
We've been begging for Brendan Rodgers to give Balotelli a strike partner in recent weeks, and while Lambert was effective late against Hull, the former Southampton man struggled alone up top after a bright start on Tuesday, ultimately fading into anonymity in a manner not too dissimilar to what we've seen from Balotelli. Borini was stationed on the right for nearly the entire match, and while he didn't have a chance to show much in the way of a true partnership with either Lambert or Balotelli, he showed more than enough to warrant another appearance in the immediate future.
There seems to be reason enough to see one or the other, and possibly both Lambert and Borini at some point; Borini's quality is more recent and appears more adaptable, and that might give him the edge, but Lambert was also very good in a defined role on the weekend. Whatever the case, we're at the point that Rodgers can't ignore how much better Liverpool have looked with two strikers involved.