12:15pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
1-0 Fulham (a) 05.05.07
4-0 Liverpool (h) 12.09.06
5-1 Liverpool (h) 03.15.06
0-2 Fulham (a) 10.22.05
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 8-0 Besiktas (h) 0-0 Blackburn (a); 2-1 Cardiff (h)
Fulham: 3-1 Reading (h); 1-1 Sunderland (a); 0-0 Derby (h)
Liverpool: Torres 4; Voronin 3; Alonso, Gerrard, Kuyt 2; Babel, Benayoun, Sissoko 1
Fulham: Dempsey 4; Davies, Healy 3; Bouazza, Kamara, McBride, Murphy, Smertin 1
Referee: Steve Tanner
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Kewell
As much as I’d love to see Liverpool keep faith with the same line-up as Wednesday’s, I know it probably won’t happen, although I am picking Kewell as the lone change. Admittedly, maybe I’m just hoping, or maybe I just fear the reaction to a host of changes and a poor performance, but my best guess is that the line-ups will be fairly similar.
I know it’s Benitez, and the media’s got us trained to expect rotation at every turn. And I will almost always defend what he does, because there’s almost always a clear reason for it. But when the team’s flowing with as much confidence as it was on Tuesday, and there’s a two-week break coming up, I can’t see that many alterations.
You can divine a lot from Rafa’s pre-match interviews.
One, Benitez has a lot of time for Voronin after his performance on Tuesday. Two, Torres seems certain to play some part. And three, Rafa’s well aware that a draw is as bad as a loss, and I’d assume that means he’ll send out a side able to put Fulham to the sword.
In-form and confident strikers are hard to come by. With both Crouch and Voronin excellent on Tuesday, I’m hoping they’ll be given the chance to reprise their performance. There’s been a lot of talk about Torres returning to the line-up, but given how he was rushed back last time and the fact that there’s an international break on the horizon, I’m hoping he’ll be used as off the bench, if at all.
Kuyt is rarely left out two games running, so he has to be in contention. I don’t mean leaving him out as a slight, and Kuyt/Crouch was Liverpool’s best partnership at home last season. But Crouch and Voronin both look in-form and capable of scoring, and should be given another run out.
Maybe it’s too soon to expect Kewell to start the match, as it is Torres, but he’s had 3 good runs off the bench now, and he’d add another attacking dimension to the team. Plus, if this is the team, both Babel and Riise could be available off the bench if needed.
I’m hoping to see Arbeloa and Benayoun down the right, and Aurelio for a second consecutive match. Yes, Finnan’s coming up against his old club, and being rested on Tuesday means he’s likely here, but Arbeloa and Benayoun worked so well with each other against Besiktas, and the thinking is in the vein of “why change it?” that’s permeated this entire preview.
Fulham has shown they can be a decent attacking side, with American Clint Dempsey and David Healy able to get goals from nothing, while Simon Davies has been banging them in from free kicks. But Fulham’s also winless on their travels this season, and I fear that Sanchez might go into damage control, and play with the team camped in their own half.
But with the players Liverpool will have on the pitch, and the confidence hopefully flowing through the side, the team should be able to carve open a stingy defense. The key, as always, is get pressure on from the off, and get the early goal.
The team knows how important a win is. To better the tally in the league, to turn around Liverpool’s home league form, to continue the momentum from Tuesday’s win, and to put the team in a good position going into the two-week break.
Roll on Liverpool.