The Reds should go into this with more or less a full-strength team, and not only that, Gerrard looking back to something resembling his old self.
Players who needed games got playing time against Fiorentina, and others – Carragher, Johnson, Lucas – had long overdue rests. I suspect that the inclusion of Insua, who also needed a rest, means that Aurelio, who didn’t start last night, will take his place on Sunday.
I’d be surprised if Aquilani starts this game, given his apparent (and understandable) tiring in the 2nd half against his fellow countrymen, but it was a very promising, if unspectacular debut. He used the ball well, moved with purpose and intelligence into space, and generally looked at home, if a little leggy as the match wore on. Lucas and Mascherano have improved a lot as a pairing, and while Aquilani will surely take a place in the side on a regular basis, he’s not up to speed just yet.
(One exciting idea is that of Gerrard on the right, Aquilani behind Torres, and Benayoun cutting in from the left; with Lucas and Mascherano holding the fort, and the width coming mainly from the full-backs. Looks nice on paper, anyway, but I’m not the one who’d have to get it to work in practice, or get the blame if it flopped…).
The return of Torres – looking surprisingly sharp in his cameo – is a massive boost. Hopefully that won’t be countered by a nervousness around Anfield after a few disappointing results. It should be an exciting open game (but please, less so than last season!), and it now looks as if Arsenal are the ones suffering injury problems.
But the pressure is off them and on Liverpool for this match. What the Reds badly need is a home win to bring back a sense of optimism around the stadium, and rid the feeling of “here we go again…”.
As ever, Subscribers can discuss the game below, and I’ll chip in with further thoughts, as and when.