Club Focus – Liverpool – Maxi Rodriguez poses welcome selection headache for Dalglish

Record-signing Andy Carroll may have missed out for Liverpool as the Merseysiders cruised to a 5-0 win over Birmingham City on Saturday, however Argentinean winger Maxi Rodriguez stepped up in his place to sink Alex McLeish’s side with a well-earned hat-trick. It was Rodriguez’s first treble in a Reds shirt as he doubled his goal tally for the season and the former Atletico Madrid man’s excellent performance should provide Kenny Dalglish with a welcome selection headache ahead of the four remaining league games this season.

And Dalglish, who has guided Liverpool to 27 points from just 14 games compared to previous manager Roy Hodgson’s 25 points from 20 games, was full of praise for the 30-year-old midfielder, who has not played for a few weeks. Dalglish said: “Maxi isn’t a direct replacement for Andy Carroll but he has scored more goals than him just on the one performance. Maxi is a very intelligent footballer and the way all the boys have gone about their work in training has been a real credit to themselves and the way they have adapted to the training.

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With many ins and outs expected at Anfield over the summer, the future of Rodriguez is still unclear. However, the South American may just survive the chop following his display against Birmingham. Rodriguez does not offer the pace and trickery Liverpool require on the wings, but he has the ability to get into good positions. The Argentinean’s chances of first-team football look to have diminished since the arrival of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, but Rodriguez certainly remains a good option to have on the bench and would be a valuable squad player.

But Rodriguez was not the only attacking midfielder to impress against Birmingham. Former England international Joe Cole was also pleasing in his cameo appearance. Although Cole did not reach the dizzy heights of scoring a hat-trick, the former Chelsea man scored within just a couple of minutes after coming off the bench, much to the delight of his teammates and manager. Cole has struggled to shine at Anfield this season, but his strike will provide Dalglish with further food for thought over the next few weeks.

Since Liverpool secured a point against Arsenal last weekend, rivals Tottenham have dropped four points as both sides fight to finish in the Premier League’s top five. The Reds are now just three points behind Harry Redknapp’s side, though the Londoners do have a game in hand. However, with Spurs set to face Liverpool before the season is out, there is still a lot to play for in the final few weeks of this intriguing season.

Liverpool’s next game is against Newcastle on Sunday, where all eyes will be on Andy Carroll, who could recover in time to face his former side. However, if Carroll does not regain full fitness before then, Dalglish will still have the likes of Rodriguez and Cole to call upon instead and based on their individual displays against Birmingham, they do not seem like bad options to deputise for the Englishman.

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