So divisive has the Capital One Cup become that Liverpool’s upcoming clash with Middlesbrough in the competition, off the back of a three-defeats-in-five start to the Premier League season, can either be seen as the perfect pipe cleaner or an unwanted annoyance.
If Brendan Rodgers is as smart as his press-conference sound bites hint at, then taking on the Championship’s fifth-placed side should be a welcome opportunity to not only allow his squad to further assimilate his philosophy, but also cling to a chance at silverware.
The Northern Irishman admitted after the Reds’ weekend defeat to West Ham that he needs to stick to a system of play for a longer period in order for his men to find their form.
With an injury hit midfield combining with Daniel Sturridge’s absence to make the 4-4-2 diamond an unsuitable fit, Rodgers must find a setup that compliments his available players, which could reportedly include two 17-year-olds in the League Cup clash.
Having showed progress in his reign at Anfield so far, the former Swansea manager must also continue to show he is taking steps in the right direction. Having landed a Champions League spot last term, such growth is likely to take the form of a trophy.
With Manchester United already out of the competition and a host of rivals likely to pay less attention to the trophy, Rodgers should use it to further embed his squad in his traditions while looking to add his first winners’ medal as Reds boss to his CV.
Whether the allure of chasing another top-four finish convinces the 41-year-old otherwise remains to be seen, however.
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