Brendan Rodgers’ questionable decision to rest a raft of first-team regulars for Liverpool’s trip to Real Madrid prompted mounds of criticism from several sources.
The Ulsterman defended his selection by pointing to the admirable effort his much-changed XI put in against arguably the best side in world football at the moment, but will he keep faith with the exact line up for their game against Chelsea (arguably the second-best side in world football) next?
A price of 50/1 says there’ll be no changes to the team from the one that began at the Bernabeu against the Blues, suggesting the answer is an emphatic no.
Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Mario Balotelli and Jordan Henderson all observed the majority of Los Blancos’ 1-0 victory from the bench, but it’s deemed highly likely the quartet will be recalled, along with Glen Johnson and Dejan Lovren, for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s men.
It’s 6/4 that just five of those picked to tackle Los Merengues will make the cut for the Chelsea game, while those who reckon six will kick off the match can get paid out at 2/1.
It’s tough to imagine Rodgers sticking with the likes of Kolo Toure, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Borini at Anfield, but the prospect of him naming an unchanged team isn’t as far fetched as the price indicates.
Despite losing the game, Liverpool’s performance against Real was one of their best in weeks.
Their makeshift defence restricted a forward line that had scored an otherworldly 47 goals in the 11 games that preceded this (three of which came against their first-choice rearguard a fortnight ago) to just a solitary strike.
An attack minus Mario Balotelli looked vibrant and lively and, were it not for some poor decision-making and final balls, they could’ve posed a genuine threat on the counter-attack.
This was the closest Liverpool have come to replicating the frontline that served them so well last term since Luis Suarez left and the quality will only improve if they’re afforded more game time together.
Similarly, two genuine holding-midfielders in Lucas and Emre Can helped stymie Real’s midfield creativity and deploying both could be key in nullifying the effects of Cesc Fabregas and Oscar.