For most there's an assumption that when fit, Pepe Reina gets slotted straight back into the starting eleven. On form, though, there's a chance Brad Jones could see a third straight start against Everton—a possibility the keeper is relishing.
With four stops on the night and another assured performance, Brad Jones has now registered back to back clean sheets but faces the prospect of missing out on this weekend's derby match with Pepe Reina close to full fitness. It may be a situation that Jones has very little control over, but the goalkeeper who looks worlds away from the one who often struggled in his rare cameo appearances under Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish isn't letting the uncertainty affect him.
"I'm happy with the clean sheet and more happy to get another game," he said following Thursday's 1-0 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala in the Europa League, "but it's even better when the team defend like that and you don't have anything to do. They could have been a dangerous team, but we pretty much nullified their attacking threat and controlled the game."
It may have, somewhat surprisingly, seemed an easier game for the goalkeeper than the weekend's league match against Reading despite that it was a full strength lineup set out by the Russian Premier League leaders, yet his four stops on the day is still more than Reina has yet managed in any game this season. Still, despite the shot totals, watching the match itself will have left many feeling it was a relatively easy game for the goalkeeper—something Jones credits to the players in front of him.
"The midfield did really well, the likes of Nuri Sahin and Stevie really controlled the centre of the park—and Jonjo did well in a more attacking sense. And the boys at the back didn't give away any chances. That's the aim of the game—we don't want to be giving anyone cheap chances on goal. We did that and deserved the win."
As for his chances of starting on Sunday, even with seven saves and two clean sheets in his past two matches to go along with a noticeable increase in the goalkeeper's confidence, Jones knows the odds are against him if Reina is fit. That won't stop him from hoping that manager Brendan Rodgers will decide to go with his on-form keeper while perhaps giving Reina an extra day or two off—just to be safe.
"It'd be amazing to play in the derby," he said, "but we'll see what happens. Pepe is close to full training now, so we'll see how he is and then see what the manager does. It'll be a tough test. It's always going to be a big game and Everton have been flying this season. They're going to be dangerous and up for it—but it's a game we're relishing.
"We go into the game on the back of two wins—solid performances rather than anything flamboyant but that's probably better to be honest because of our team work ethic. We've gotten results by doing the right things, and that's a big plus."
Whichever way the manager decides to go, and whichever goalkeeper he decides to start on Sunday, it's likely that Liverpool continuing to perform well in front of him will play the biggest role in determining the club's chances of success. Still, with Pepe Reina once again struggling for form and consistency after a few seasons that have seen the 'keeper at less than top form, there's an argument to be made for Jones right now being the club's best last line of defence for if—or perhaps just when—something does go wrong in front of him.