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Liverpool: 3rd place; 67 points out of 36 games
Fulham: 16th place; 36 points out of 36 games
Last 3 meetings:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 12.09.06
5-1 Liverpool (a) 03.15.06
2-0 Fulham (a) 10.22.05
3-1 Liverpool (h) 02.05.05
Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 1-0 Chelsea (h); 1-2 Portsmouth (a); 0-1 Chelsea (a)
Fulham: 1-3 Arsenal (a); 1-1 Blackburn (h); 0-1 Reading (a)
Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 12; Crouch 9; Bellamy, Gerrard 7; Alonso, Fowler, Garcia 3; Agger, Gonzalez, Hyypia 2
Fulham: McBride 9; Bocanegra 5; Helguson 3; Bullard, Jensen, Knight, Montella, Radzinski, Volz 2
Referee: Steve Bennett (of course, the BBC said he was going to referee last weekend, and it was Peter Walton)
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Agger Hyypia Insua
Pennant Sissoko Alonso Gonzalez
After 120 minutes of football for many on Tuesday, we’ll probably see a line-up very similar to that at Portsmouth last week. Although I imagine there will be a little variety, in order for Benitez to explore more of his “possibilities.”
With Finnan just back after a spell on the sidelines, I don’t think it’s worth starting him here, but granted it’s a complete guess. Unlike against Chelsea, where his presence was necessary, it’s absolutely not worth risking him if he’s not fully fit.
And speaking of fully fit, after getting 30+ minutes for the reserves last week, Kewell should be healthy enough to at least make the bench. I can’t see him starting, but he needs to be back in the squad. You never know, maybe if we’re lucky, he’ll be healthy for Istanbul. And yes, as of right now, that’s sarcasm, but you never do know what will happen over the next couple of weeks.
Craig Linfield is also in my line-up, although I don’t really know if he’ll feature. Lindfield was one of the key players in both of the Youth Cup runs of the past two years, and saw some time with the first team during the pre-season. From what I’ve read and what little I’ve seen of the reserves and Academy, Lindfield looks to be one of those who could make the jump up in the next couple of seasons. I’d love to see him get time over the next couple of weeks, before he’s probably loaned out for first-team football next year. Although it is probably more likely we will see Bellamy and Fowler up top again. At the least, I sincerely hope Lindfield is on the bench and sees some action.
Also, as warned last week, I’m probably going to have to be restrained when discussing Insua, although I have followed Liverpool long enough to know you can’t base a career off a young player’s first game. I still have to believe he’ll start tomorrow after starting last Saturday, and after Riise, who really is the only other option at left back (especially if Arbeloa has to deputize for Finnan), played the full match against Chelsea.
Fulham still sits only one point above the relegation zone, albeit with a better goal differential, and caretaker manager Lawrie Sanchez is still looking for his first win. I do have a fondness for Fulham, and it’s not because of Americans McBride, Bocanegra, and Dempsey on the roster; I lived nearest to Fulham when I lived in England (I know, I know, la di dah), and the first Premiership game I saw was at Loftus Road while Craven Cottage was being rebuilt. I sincerely hope they do not drop a division.
But that’s not why I think Liverpool will come out with what one could describe as a weakened line-up. We know where Liverpool’s priorities lie. Champions League football’s achieved, and there’s the slight matter of keeping everyone healthy for May 23rd. And not only do I believe that the squad and youth players could use the time on the pitch, so the staff can see how different players work together and what they’re capable of, I do think that this squad can beat Fulham. That’s the strength and depth of this team. Now let’s see it happen.