Liverpool Club Focus – Rangers friendly defeat leaves Dalglish with choices ahead of Norwich fixture

Five-time European Cup winners Liverpool entered the 2011-12 campaign knowing that they would not be participating in a continental competition for the first time in many seasons, therefore many Reds fans will not have expected to see their team performing in a different country on a Champions League night in the middle of October. However, the Merseyside outfit were in action on Tuesday night, as they faced Scottish giants Rangers in a pre-season friendly.

The fixture gave Kenny Dalglish, who returned to his home city, a chance to allow some of his fringe players to impress ahead of Liverpool’s upcoming Premier League and Carling Cup games. Alex Doni, Sebastian Coates, Danny Wilson, Jay Spearing, Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy were all given run-outs, while attack-minded full-backs Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio racked up some much-needed minutes following their return from injury.

But many of the Reds’ second-string failed to impress as Dalglish’s side slipped to a relatively unexpected 1-0 defeat at Ibrox. Worryingly, even the introduction of regular first-team stars such as Jose Enrique, Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt and Stewart Downing in the second-half failed to spark Liverpool into life. However, people will argue that this was just a friendly match and therefore simply a chance for the manager to experiment with his tactics. The result was not important.

Dalglish himself admitted that Liverpool played poorly, however there were some positive aspects to the performance. The Scot said: “We’ve got some boys who haven’t played for a while, like Glen Johnson. He got injured before the end of last season, went with England, came back and has never really been fully fit since.

For him to get an hour was important. For Daniel Agger to get some time after injuring his rib and the same for Fabio Aurelio – it’s a useful exercise for some of the boys. I haven’t seen much of Rangers this season so I don’t know if that was them playing well or badly. For us, that was us playing badly. But that’s not to take anything away from Rangers.

One player Dalglish will have kept a close eye on was young midfielder Spearing. The talented local-boy, who signed a long-term contract with the Merseysiders last season, played alongside holding player Lucas, who captained the Reds on the night. But Spearing may well be the one to replace Lucas when Liverpool face Norwich City this weekend, as the Brazilian star is suspended for the Premier League clash. The tenacious, tough-tackling Spearing was excellent for the Reds last season and he would act as a like-for-like replacement for fellow defensive midfielder Lucas.

But Spearing may face competition from £20m man Jordan Henderson, who himself impressed when he came on as a substitute for Lucas in the recent draw against Manchester United. It will be interesting to see whether Dalglish opts to pick Spearing – who has hardly played in the Premier League this season, or Henderson – who has hardly played in the holding position this term – when the Reds face the newly-promoted Canaries.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Liverpool v Norwich

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