10am EST, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
6-0 Liverpool (h) 09.01.07
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.20.02
1-0 Liverpool (a) 12.01.01
1-1 (h) 03.18.01
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Pompey (h); 0-2 Chelsea (a); 0-1 United (h)
Derby: 2-2 Newcastle (a); 0-1 Boro (h); 1-4 United (a)
Liverpool: Torres 8; Gerrard 6; Babel, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso, Benayoun 2; Hyypia, Sissoko 1
Derby: Miller 3; Oakley 2; Barnes, Howard, Todd 1
Referee: Alan Wiley
Wiley also had the 6-0 reverse fixture at Anfield this season.
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Hobbs Carragher Aurelio
Benayoun Alonso Lucas Babel
There’s little point in having a squad the size of Liverpool’s if you’re not going to rotate in a game like this. But at the same time, Liverpool can ill-afford to drop any points in the Premiership.
I do think Gerrard, among others, will be rested. We know he was ill last week and he wasn’t at his best against Portsmouth, while Alonso’s nearing fitness and Lucas has been deserving of more time. Gerrard’s the captain and Liverpool’s talisman, but Liverpool beat Derby in September without him, and his fitness for upcoming games is massively important.
But I fear the reaction if Torres sits and Liverpool struggles. He’s been crucial to Liverpool’s scoring streak, and if the number of matches were a concern, I’d hope he’s only subbed out early in the second half, after Liverpool’s gone goals to the good. But not until Liverpool’s gotten said goals; the criticism following the 0-0 draw against Birmingham certainly still lingers.
The BBC’s match preview suggests that Babel, Voronin, Lucas, Hobbs, and Aurelio are in line for a start, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them all.
I still believe Babel’s best suited to come off the bench, but Liverpool’s options are limited on the left, and this is the type of game where he’d be well served to see as much time as possible. Voronin’s far better as a striker instead of on the wing (where we’ve seen him lately), links up well with Torres, and brings the midfield into attack. Hobbs looks likely to see time spelling either Hyypia or Carragher with Agger still not fit and three games in the next week, while Aurelio has the potential to be first-choice left back if he can get a decent run in the side.
Again there’s a chance of a 4-2-3-1 formation, as against Chelsea in the Carling Cup, but I still think Liverpool (especially with the forecasted changes) is more suited to 4-4-2, especially away from home.
There’s little point reiterating Derby’s season so far. They’re competing with past Sunderland squads for the worst record in Premiership history. But Paul Jewell’s slowly but surely putting his mark on the squad, and you can’t underestimate any away game in the league. They were better against Newcastle, and nearly got the first away win of the season, but still gave up two goals that shouldn’t be given up at this level.
This is a game where Liverpool should get three needed points. Obviously, it’s not in the bag, and Benitez will have to have the team focused on the opposition in front of them, but with this squad, and all that’s been written about them, there’s no way anything less than all three points is acceptable.