When news broke on Monday that Brendan Rodgers was considering resting captain and club talisman Steven Gerrard against Real Madrid the following day, people were shocked. When Liverpool's teamsheet was revealed an hour before the match and included seven changes from Saturday's dire match against Newcastle, people were puzzled and shocked.
Gerrard's exclusion was framed as simply "resting" the captain, the first time Rodgers had done so in a match of this magnitude during his tenure. In resting a fair few of Liverpool's regular starters in addition to Gerrard, though, Rodgers opened himself up to additional criticism from those who felt he was deliberately fielding a squad that might have trouble surpassing a third division side in an early round league cup tie.
"Tonight gives me food for thought," Rodgers said after the match in discussing his chosen starting line-up. "It was not players rested as such. We played a team to get the result and we nearly did. I thought we were very unfortunate not to get something out of the game. Irrespective of the Chelsea game, we picked a team to get a result. And it does not mean those who did not play will on Saturday.
"We have not been consistent enough to have guaranteed starters. I had to change the team after the performance against Newcastle. I have to show trust as a coach and a manager and now we have to be focused on Chelsea and pick a team to win that game. The players understood and they respect the squad will be used throughout the season. The players know the name is irrelevant to me. It’s not about the name, it is about the performance. I spoke to Steven Gerrard over a week ago and told him my plans and he was fine about it, a true professional."
The news that there are no guaranteed starters will come as a surprise to those who haven't enjoyed the consistent and unquestioned inclusion of various players in Liverpool's squad so far this season. (Insert your favourite scapegoat here.) Low expectations versus Madrid perhaps made it easier to experiment with unexpected line-up changes, but if Rodgers' take away food for thought includes an understanding that these sorts of changes need not be scary, Liverpool fans may be in for something tasty when Chelsea visit Anfield on Saturday.