Bordeaux - Liverpool: Four VAVEL writers pick their Reds line-ups for opening group stage clash

Charlie Malam: Like it or not, and I'm well aware many lean towards the latter, the Europa League is probably actually a nice distraction for Liverpool at the minute.

First and foremost, it is a welcome opportunity for Brendan Rodgers to experiment with the side, handing those on the fringes of the first-team and from the Academy some much-needed minutes on the pitch. 

It's also a welcome break from the Premier League, where the Reds' form seems to have taken a prompt nosedive over the past few weeks. Furthermore, it now offers a genuine alternative route to the Champions League - something that has to be seriously taken into account off the back of our domestic fall from grace.

Without further ado, the side I'd start at Bordeaux is a near fully-changed XI because our next league game, at home to Norwich City, has suddenly become vitally important and we'll need our best players fully fit to overcome the recently-promoted Canaries, who will fancy their chances at Anfield.

Starting in goal, Simon Mignolet was rather unconvincing away at Manchester United, but even if he had have produced a man of the match performance - the Europa League surely has to be the chance for Adam Bogdan.

The Hungarian's yet to make his debut and whilst Bordeaux away from home has the potential to be quite a tricky game, Bogdan gets the nod for me.

In terms of the back-four, starting from right to left - I'd give Joe Gomez a shot in a right-back role. That's where he played most of his football for Charlton Athletic last term and he's also right-footed, so it automatically suits him better.

Furthermore, thinking ahead to Norwich, where we should hopefully start Alberto Moreno to be more attacking from the offset, Gomez switching sides also gives us chance to rest Nathaniel Clyne - who has arguably been our best player so far this season.

In the centre of defence, Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren - despite looking to have improved a few weeks ago, have been centres of frustration in the past two games. The Slovakian in particular has looked woefully under-par, and the trip to France should be used to give Kolo Toure, on the right, and Mamadou Sakho, on the left, their fair shot.

Both of them have experience aplenty and have more than enough ability to give us a more compact and solid feel, the likes of which were seen earlier this season with our first-choice centre-back pairing.

At left-back, given that we've not particularly got a vast array of options - it has to be Moreno. There are questions over his defensive abilities, but with Jon Flanagan out injured, Gomez giving little attacking option because he continually has to cut inside onto his stronger foot, the likes of Joe Maguire out on loan and no other options - the Spaniard is my pick.

Moving into midfield, this competition provides a vital opportunity to beginning blooding in some new youth and one of the most prominent, Jordan Rossiter, should be chucked right in at the deep end because he's impressed in the other first-team appearances he's made so far.

Further ahead of Rossiter, the midfield situation is convoluted by injuries - but I'd have Emre Can and unfortunately, the other options are limited by injuries, so James Milner should be the other choice - until others begin to return and we can use the likes of Joe Allen

I'd stick with the 4-3-3, though it isn't working with our first-choice team, and have Divock Origi on the right side of attack, Danny Ings central and Jordon Ibe on the left. 

The three have had fleeting cameos so far, with Ings impressing against West Ham United and Manchester United, whilst Ibe may be guilty of exceeding expectations throughout a promising pre-season. The trio, however, should certainly have enough to pose plenty of threat on Thursday night - with the bonus that they can interchange if they're not receiving any joy up against their opponent.

With as many as 19 youngsters out on loan, Liverpool's squad certainly isn't as deep as it could be in several areas - but there are still others in with a shout of game-time at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.

Joao Carlos Teixeira is the biggest name of those and after impressing in pre-season, he should certainly be given his opportunities throughout the European campaign, others such as promising Academy players like Pedro Chirivella and Jerome Sinclair are other potential candidates for the step-up.

For now, however, Rodgers finds himself restricted in terms of how he'd really like to rotate the squad, and so we'll likely have to field a few regulars to cope with that.

Charlie's XI - Bordeaux (4-3-3): Bogdan; Gomez, Sakho, Toure, Moreno; Rossiter, Can, Milner; Origi, Ings, Ibe.


Ollie Emmerson: Whisper it quietly, but I'm quietly looking forward to 'Thursday nights on Channel 5'. 

Admittedly, the Europa League isn't on Channel 5 anymore, nor does it compare to the prestigious Champions League, however it offers two extremely inviting things to Liverpool and the fans.

One, being a chance to come up against some different, seemingly weaker opposition in an attempt to get out of the rut that is the Reds' league form recently.

Two, being the chance to see some of the players that Liverpool fans have been crying out for in action, as they look to prove their worth to current manager Brendan Rodgers.

So, as expected, I would almost completely change tact from the side that lined up against Manchester United at the weekend, and the performance in the 3-1 loss suggests that I have good reason to do so.

Adam Bodgan must start in goal, for the simple reason that he's Simon Mignolet's backup 'keeper, and this is essentially Liverpool's back-up competition. Not picking him would be hugely de-motivating to the Hungarian, and he deserves a chance to show what he can do.

Ahead of him, Mamadou Sakho must return to the Liverpool defence. Not because he should be a second choice player, but because if the Reds go one more game with Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel marshalling the defence ahead of him, fans may forget what defending is all-together.

In seriousness, I'm extremely keen for Sakho to return to his rightful place in the starting XI, and would be intrigued to give Joe Gomez an opportunity alongside him in his preferred centre back role.

With Andre Wisdom out on loan and Jon Flanagan injured, there isn't much choice at right back in terms of rotating Nathaniel Clyne. You could move Gomez across, but I'm keen for him to start at centre-back, so would stick with Clyne.

In the opposite full-back position, Alberto Moreno will almost certainly come back into the team after not being selected for the opening games, and hopefully he can regain some of the form which made him such a prized capture in the 2014 transfer window.

Moving into midfield, the Europa League offers an excellent chance to give Jordan Rossiter more gametime, and I'd look to pair him with Emre Can in a 4-4-2. 

The reason for this, partly, being that I'm intrigued to see how James Milner would perform in his natural right-midfield positon, one which he expressed his desire not to play in upon his arrival at Liverpool. So I've got him on the right, and Jordon Ibe on the left.

Daniel Sturridge still isn't fit and Christian Benteke is deserving of a day off having long balls lumped into him whilst isolated high up the pitch, so Danny Ings and Divock Origi get the opportunity to impress in my front two.

Ollie's XI - Bordeaux (4-4-2): Bogdan, Clyne, Gomez, Sakho, Moreno, Rossiter, Can, Milner, Ibe, Ings, Origi.


Ameé Ruszkai: With Liverpool's start to their Premier League campaign proving to be rather hit and miss so far, Brendan Rodgers will hope that the Europa League can prove to be a positive distraction for his team and help settle their currently erratic form.

The squad as a whole will be excited about the competition starting too, as it affords fringe and youth players opportunities to impress and gain valuable experience. It also allows chances for Rodgers to experiment with his side, via different formations and players in different positions.

The most obvious change that the manager will make to his side is likely to see summer signing Adam Bogdan take Simon Mignolet's place in between the sticks. The Hungarian has been patient thus far in his time at Anfield and deserves the chance to show what he can do, with the FA Cup and League Cup campaigns, two other competitions where Bogdan may be preferred, yet to get underway for the Reds.

In defence, Mamadou Sakho should get his chance having been somehow left out of the side that started at Old Trafford at the weekend, and he should be partnered with Joe Gomez. The 18-year-old has taken one for the team so far this season, playing out on the left when he is naturally a centre-back and right-footed, and his splendid displays in an unnatural position should earn him the chance to play in a more favoured role on Thursday.

On the right, Nathaniel Clyne should remain, simply because, due to there being so many youngsters out on loan, there are no other options here, whilst Alberto Moreno is given a chance from the start on the left. The Spaniard has plenty of potential, but still has some kinks in his game to iron out, and he can only learn to do this from playing.

Moving into midfield, I'd like to see Rodgers try the diamond as the team could really do with using two centre-forwards at the moment due to Christian Benteke being offered little in terms of support in the league. If the formation works in Europe, then he may feel more confident in it in England too.

I'd deploy Lucas Leiva in the holding role, as I think he needs more game time to really get back to his best and sharpest having performed slightly under-par in the league thus far.

The two more advanced players would then be Jordan Rossiter and Emre Can. Rossiter has shown in glimpses what he can do and has settled in nicely when given small chances in the league, and thus I believe he deserves a chance from the off on Thursday. As for Can, Rodgers still seems unsure as to what to do with the German and where his preferred position is, but he has great attacking abilities and thus a number eight role is a better fit that a deeper one in midfield - and he should show this on Thursday.

In the number 10 role, I'd then deploy Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian, like his compatriot Philippe Coutinho, excels in this role, as opposed to the wider one he is often put in. As a result, we are yet to really see what he can do, but Rodgers should give him the chance to show this in Europe.

The front two would then be the underused pairing of Divock Origi and Danny Ings. With the former built similarly to Benteke, able to win the ball in the air and hold it up effectively, Ings should work well with him, using his great energy to offer support and win the second balls in the final third. Both have points to prove and will be keen to do so in their performances if they are given the nod.

Ameé's XI - Bordeaux (4-1-2-1-2): Bogdan; Clyne, Gomez, Sakho, Moreno; Lucas; Rossiter, Can; Firmino; Origi, Ings.


Mosope Ominiyi: After a disappointing defeat at the hands of their arch rivals on the weekend, the start of the UEFA Europa League is sure to be a welcome distraction for the Reds - as they travel to France in search of an encouraging start to their European travels this term.

It'd be natural to expect some alterations to the starting line-up, especially after a poor showing from a few individuals in recent weeks. Amongst them, is Martin Skrtel. I'm a firm believer that Martin, better known for his goal-scoring exploits, is not as solid defensively as he'd like you to think.

It's been strange not seeing Mamadou Sakho in the defensive equation, and after another limpless defensive display against United on Saturday evening, I'd be shocked if the powerful Frenchman was not utilised in some form. So, himself and experienced Ivorian Touré, would be the centre-back pairing for me. 

Joe Gomez, who's been one of Liverpool's best players this season, would be shifted onto the right - with the exclusion of Nathaniel Clyne, who'll most probably be rested. On the left, with so few options there, Alberto Moreno should start.

Brendan needs to pack the midfield. That'll stop the threat of Bordeaux driving forward at will, and even with the home advantage, they will not be able to utilise possession on the ball as much as they'd like to. So, step up James Milner. One of the most experienced within the squad, the former City man will relish the challenge of dominating in the middle of the park.

Alongside him, two youngsters - varying in experience between them. Emre Can, who has frustratingly been deployed in a more defensive role, should get his opportunity to play in a more preferred position. I'd also love to see Jordan Rossiter, who is more used to bossing youth-team fixtures, start. It'd be a morale-boosting inclusion for the Englishman, who has been tipped for great things in recent years although he's still at the tender age of 18.

The front-three, two of which have been severely overlooked over the past few months.. Divock Origi and Danny Ings, they'll be relishing the opportunity to assert their first-team credentials, should they start. Jordon Ibe on the wing, he used the Europa League as a springboard to force his way into Rodgers' immediate plans last term. 

So, all in all.. should be an intriguing game. Plenty to prove for the majority of those starting, which makes it all the more interesting too. This is probably the wrong time to stress the fact that Liverpool need a win right now, isn't it? 

Mosope's XI - Bordeaux (4-3-3): Bogdan; Gomez, Sakho, Touré, Moreno; Can, Rossiter, Milner; Ibe, Origi and Ings. 

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