Roy Hodgson has admitted that he will rest Liverpool's star players Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres during a busy programme of matches. Both Gerrard and Torres have recently recovered from injuries and Hodgson could not guarantee their involvement in all of Liverpool's six remaining games this month.
"I think we will have to [rest Gerrard and Torres at times]", said Hodgson. "We have to hope that the supporters understand that. Fernando had a very serious knee injury, which seems to be in the past, but when you've had an injury there's always the little risk of recurrence. And Steven, of course, is susceptible to muscle injury if he plays too many games one after the other."
Liverpool have a busy month ahead. Even presuming that they do not win at Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup, they have six more matches. There are Premier League trips to Ewood Park and Bloomfield Road either side of their cup tie, followed by a Merseyside derby at Anfield and a trip to Molineux before hosting Hodgson's former club Fulham. The manager recognised that successfully getting through these fixtures would require some of the squad's more robust players to bear the workload.
"I've got to hope that the ones who just seem to keep going – the Duracell bunnies, the Kuyts, the Lucas Leivas of this world – can keep us going and give me a chance of giving a rest to the others," he said.
Hodgson recognised that Liverpool were in a fairly strong position with regard to their ability to rotate, thanks to an improving injury situation.
"Our good fortune is that the squad going into these matches is relatively whole. We don't have that many injuries, touch wood, so going into it our squad seems quite big and we probably have a little bit more chance of changing things around than some other teams."
That said, Hodgson acknowledged that success was dependent on the involvement of his best players. Gerrard and Torres combined beautifully for the equalising goal in Liverpool's 2-1 defeat of Bolton on New Year's Day, while Pepe Reina made a vital late save.
"If we are going to win games it is the Torreses, the Gerrards, the Reinas; these are the people really that are going to be the ones to get us up the table and lift us above the rest."
Hodgson also said that he wanted to be more active in the transfer market: "I'm also hoping that one day I will get a chance to stamp a little bit more of my authority and philosophy on the team by choosing some more of the players."
The realisation of these hopes may start with the signing of Eljero Elia, Hamburg's 23-year-old Dutch winger. Local newspaper Morgenpost reported yesterday that Liverpool had made a £13m bid and that personal terms had been agreed.