10am EST, live in the US only on Setanta Broadband. It’s replayed on Setanta at 9pm, and if possible, I’ll catch it then, but here’s hoping for a Mac-friendly stream.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.21.07
4-0 Liverpool (a) 12.02.06
1-0 Liverpool (a) 02.11.06
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.03.05
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-2 Reading (a); 0-0 Brum (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Wigan: 1-2 Reading (a); 1-1 Fulham (h); 0-1 Newcastle (a)
Liverpool: Torres 3; Alonso, Voronin 2; Babel, Gerrard, Sissoko 1
Wigan: Sibierski 3; Bent, Heskey, Koumas, Landzaat, Scharner 1
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Riise
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Babel
Please, can everyone just take a few deep breaths over Torres?
Kuyt and Voronin should have been good enough a week ago. Rotation was involved. Benitez may have figured that Torres would exploit Reading’s defense and boost his confidence going into a tough stretch of games. And it was one game.
(As an aside, Benitez says all of this and more in the press conference yesterday, which you can listen to on the Mirror’s website. It seemed to me he was a lot more forthcoming than usual, which is why I mention it. The key quotes can be found in this BBC article, but the most pertinent “If you cannot play against Birmingham, with your strikers in Anfield, any one of them, then maybe you cannot talk about ‘Oh, we will win the Premier League,’ because if Torres, Gerrard, or Carra, if they need to play every game, every game, it will be impossible” wasn’t mentioned.)
I firmly believe Torres will start tomorrow, even with Marseille on Wednesday. Rafa saying he might not has to be mind games, especially after Tuesday’s performance. Plus, if we’re solely going by the “getting behind the striker” argument, remember that Bellamy torched Wigan at the JJB Stadium last season. That and Wigan’s main defensive addition is Titus Bramble.
Otherwise, I expect changes to the majority of the line-up. Gerrard and Mascherano will probably come into central midfield in place of Lucas and Sissoko. Gerrard says the toe injury’s finally healing, which couldn’t be more welcome news. Among other duties, Mascherano will be keeping a close eye on Jason Koumas, who has been one of Wigan’s best players this season (along with top scorer Antoine Sibierski).
Benayoun played well on Tuesday, and scored a delicious first goal for the club, but Pennant will probably take his place tomorrow (with Benayoun coming back in for Marseille). I think Babel will line up on the opposite flank as Pennant, as against Sunderland, Derby, Porto, and Brum. With Riise and Aurelio fit again, either one of them may play in left midfield, but I think Benitez will use a more attacking line-up against Wigan, with one of those two coming in at left back.
The return to fitness of those two players means that Arbeloa will probably get his first game of the season off on Saturday. It seems more likely to me that Riise will start at left back; Aurelio did on Tuesday and will probably play more often than Riise in the Champions League, while Riise bombing up and down the flank should help unsettle Wigan’s defense.
Wigan was one of everyone’s picks to be relegated prior to the season. They then won two of their first three games, and were second in the league after a couple of weeks. The last few games have seen them slide down the table, losing 2 and drawing 1 in their last three, and the foot injury to Emile Heskey has come at an unfortunate time for both Wigan and England. Sibierski has a surprisingly good scoring record since joining Wigan, and Marcus Bent will have plenty of motivation, but neither player is blessed with great pace, and Carragher and Hyypia should be able to keep them under wraps.
It’s amazed me how much of a talking point Torres has been this week. I’m used to Liverpool rotation, and questioning of said rotation, but it’s seemingly all that’s been written about this week. I’m very much looking forward to a strong all-around performance against a team that Liverpool’s done well against in recent meetings, which will put this last week firmly in the past.