Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Rodgers happy to rotate

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers wants to keep Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge as his main strike pairing

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes fiddling with his formation is worth it if means he can maintain his two-pronged attack of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.

In recent weeks the Reds boss has opted for a 3-4-1-2 formation, which was virtually a 3-2-3-2 in last weekend's win at Sunderland.

He first utilised it after injuries to full-backs Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique but the return of Suarez from a 10-match suspension left him with the conundrum of getting the best out of one striker who scored 30 goals last season and another enjoying a rich vein of form in Suarez's absence.

And while Rodgers is reluctant to commit himself and his team to a preferred set-up he admits the current system gets the best out of his two strikers, who scored all three goals in a 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.

"It's about exploiting the strengths of our players and I think this does it well for us," he said.

"What I've found is that if I play one up top and one wide, I take a little bit away from them. They work better as a proper front two.

"In Suarez and Sturridge, I've got what I call two 'nine-and-a-halves'.

"They both like to move, they like to drift and they both like to go into the half-positions in between the lines.

"You've got two great players as your front two and then you build the structure around that.

"I'm not the traditional 4-4-2 man and with the players we've got we can make this system work.

"If you have got them (Sturridge and Suarez) through the middle, moving and inter-changing then your structure has to then change behind that and that's obviously something that we have done."

Rodgers added in Liverpool Echo: "What I've said to our front two is that when we're defending in our half of the pitch, when we can't press and we are under pressure, I am happy for them both to stay up there.

"That gives us nine men behind the ball, the opposition have to leave at least two defenders back covering so the maximum number they can put in our half of the pitch is eight.

"I'll take that we can defend nine versus eight if that gives me two-v-two in their half of the pitch because of our strikers' pace and power.

"For me, it's all about getting a numerical advantage centrally to try to dominate the opposition."

Second-placed Liverpool have a chance to leapfrog leaders Arsenal, who play Sunday, with a victory at home to Crystal Palace.

Palace boss Ian Holloway is ready to go on the attack as he attempts to pull off another another shock.

Holloway's Blackpool side were relegated in 2011 after one season in the top flight, but they collected some notable scalps along the way, not least when they did the double over the Reds.

Newly-promoted Palace find themselves in a similar predicament, lying second from bottom with just one win from six games so far.

But Holloway insisted: "It's a wonderful opportunity for us to put right what's been going wrong.

"We have to be more attacking, it's who dares wins. That was the Blackpool approach, to be more daring. We've worked hard on that this week.

"We have players who can attack but they are coming back too far to defend, so we have to be a little bit braver and we are working on it.

"The proof is in the pudding, can we get at Liverpool? Can we take our chances, and will life look a little bit better afterwards?

"It's tough, it's not easy at this level but you have to believe in what you do. We'll keep plugging away. People will rubbish us but no one knows how many points we'll get."

Charlie Adam and Luke Varney were on target for Blackpool in a shock 2-1 victory at Anfield three years ago this weekend, but Holloway knows Brendan Rodgers' in-form side are a different proposition these days.

He added: "It was a different time, Roy Hodsgon had just gone there.

"Now they are flying high, the new manager is bedded in and they didn't have the points they have now."

Palace will come up against the Premier League's most feared strikeforce in the shape of seven-goal Sturridge and Suarez.

But Holloway, who can welcome back centre-half Damien Delaney from an ankle knock, says his team can cope with the red-hot duo.

"Could I handle them? No - I'm glad I'm not out there," he admitted.

"But can my team? Yes, we've worked on it, we've got to deal with it and then we've got to say 'how can we counter- attack and throw that punch'?"

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