BRENDAN RODGERS is set to push Jonjo Shelvey into a striking role as the manager banks on a much-changed side to overcome Young Boys in the Europa League at Anfield tonight.
The Reds will book their place in the knockout stages with a game to spare if they defeat the Swiss side and Udinese fail to beat Anzhi in Moscow.
Rodgers is keen to avoid having to take anything from their final Group A clash away to Udinese next month but is wary of his side’s hectic schedule.
Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling are all expected to be rested ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Swansea City.
In Suarez’s absence, midfielder Shelvey, who netted twice in the 5-3 win over Young Boys in September, will be asked to play further forward with Joe Cole and Oussama Assaidi either side of him.
Pepe Reina will break Ray Clemence’s club record of most appearances by a goalkeeper in Europe as he starts behind a back four of Andre Wisdom, Martin Skrtel, Jamie Carragher and Stewart Downing, whose presence in the side confirms he won’t be joining Middlesbrough on loan before tonight’s deadline.
Jordan Henderson, Nuri Sahin and Suso are expected to line up in midfield.
“I will make changes as I have to respect that we’ve got a really busy schedule,” said Rodgers.
“The other boys will be there on the bench as support if we need them. We have four games in 10 days, and that’s a big ask to keep the same group of players playing in all of those.
“We’ll put out a team we feel can win the game. All being well we’ll get the result and if the other result goes with us, we’ll have navigated our way through the group.”
Young Boys are level on six points with the Reds – one adrift of leaders Anzhi - following back to back wins over Udinese.
“They have got a threat and can score goals,” added Rodgers.
“The way their game is set up they commit a lot of players forward.
“It leaves them a wee bit open going the other way and in their league they have struggled a wee bit.
“This game will be about us - our focus and tempo. If we get that right then we will have a good night.”
Young full-back Jon Flanagan is one of a number of fringe players who could head out on loan prior to tonight’s Football League deadline.
“It’s possible one or two of the younger boys could go to get some games,” said Rodgers.
“I’ve spoken to John in terms of where he is at and it’s a difficult one for him.
“It’s a possibility he could go out on loan but it has to be the right club. I’m not looking to get him out of the door quickly. He’s an important young player in our group.”