With news leaking early that a number of Liverpool's biggest names have been left out of the squad for Thursday's Europa League match against Anzhi, Brendan Rodgers has signaled that Sunday and Chelsea in the league is his priority.
Following last week's loss to Swansea in the League Cup, there was some concern over the manner in which Rodgers had attempted to have it both ways, starting a weakened squad but quickly bringing on Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, and Raheem Sterling to join Joe Allen, in the process both losing the match and not giving his key players the rest he had hoped for. Against Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday, the story looks set to be quite different.
This time around, Rodgers is committing to the kids and fringe players with an eye towards Chelsea on the weekend. This time around there will be no chance of the likes Gerrard and Suarez being brought on at the half. With seven regulars so far confirmed to be staying at home by the Liverpool Echo and two more widely speculated to be joining them, on Thursday night in Russia it will be up to those less favoured or less experienced to try to keep Liverpool near the top of a Group A table they lead thanks to last round's home victory over Anzhi.
All told, Suarez and Gerrard will be kept company in Liverpool by regulars Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, and Joe Allen while the rest of the squad travels to Kaspiysk, and though it hasn't been confirmed yet, it is expected that Jose Enrique and Raheem Sterling also won't make the trip, either. Add in Glen Johnson and Pepe Reina, both of whom are still working their way back to full fitness, and when it comes to minutes played under Brendan Rodgers the closest thing to first team players likely to be in the mix will be Nuri Sahin, Oussama Assaidi, and Jonjo Shelvey.
It's a situation that once again highlights the extreme lack of depth faced by Rodgers, especially in attack where his choices tomorrow night will likely be between Samid Yessil and playing a midfielder such as Shelvey as his striker. It's also a situation that most watching the club should be fully aware of by now, meaning that even if Thursday's match ends in defeat there will be little room to be critical of Rodgers—this, clearly, is the hand he's been dealt, and just as clearly Chelsea on the weekend must be his priority.
Past victories over Anzhi and BSC Young Boys mean Liverpool top their group ahead of the Russians and Udinese, both on four points, and as such a draw would still leave the Reds top of the pack. Even a loss would mean the club's chances of advancing to the knockout stages would remain in their own hands. As such, Rodgers and Liverpool do have a bit of breathing room, and thanks to that breathing room and a big match in the league on the weekend, on Thursday it will be up to the fringe players to make a case that they shouldn't in fact be considered fringe players.
If they don't, though, it won't be the end of the world—or even the end of the Europa League for Liverpool—even if it may go down as one more reminder of the club's recent failings in the transfer market.