3:45pm on espn2
Inter is currently 1st in Serie A
Liverpool: 4-0 Marseille (a); 4-1 Porto (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Inter: 1-0 PSV (a); 3-0 Fenerbahce (h); 4-2 CSKA (h); 2-1 CSKA (a); 2-0 PSV (h); 0-1 Fenerbahce (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-0 Newcastle (h); 4-0 West Ham (h); 3-1 Bolton (a)
Inter: 2-0 Reggina (h); 1-0 Napoli (a); 1-1 Roma (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard, Kuyt 5; Crouch 4; Babel, Benayoun, Torres 3; Hyypia, Voronin 1
Inter: Ibrahamovic 5, Cambiasso, Cruz 2; Crespo, Jimenez, Samuel 1
Referee: Tom Henning Ovrebo (NOR)
Guess at a squad
Carragher Skrtel Hyypia Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
I’m guessing nearly the same line-up that went out against Inter at Anfield, but with Alonso in place of Lucas, and Carragher at right back.
The 4-2-3-1 has become the regular system over the past month, and it seems certain Liverpool will stick with it. Most important will be Mascherano in front of the defense and the defense itself, as first and foremost, Liverpool needs to protect the two-goal advantage.
Having suffered a dead leg late against West Ham, Masch wasn’t in the squad over the weekend. But he traveled with the team today, and if he’s at all healthy, he’ll assuredly feature. I can’t imagine Liverpool leaving the best holding midfielder in the world out when trying to maintain a two-goal lead against the Serie A leaders if it can be avoided.
With Finnan injured and not making the trip, Liverpool’s limited at right back, with Arbeloa and Carragher the two options. Don’t get me wrong, I’d have no problem if Arbeloa started (we saw his capability in Europe against Barca, for one), but I’ve been impressed with the backline when Carragher, Skrtel and Hyypia have all played, despite the shakiness on set plays shown against Bolton.
Hyypia was rested on Saturday with what I’d have to believe was an eye on tomorrow’s match, Skrtel has been excellent of late, and Carragher is, well, Carragher. Tomorrow will mark his 100th appearance for Liverpool in Europe, the first Liverpool player to reach that number.
I’m guessing Alonso to be in the line-up, but forum gossip today claims that Radio City announced he didn’t fly out with the squad due to his wife giving birth, although I haven’t seen that posted anywhere else online. If true, the line-up will end up even closer to that in the first leg, when Lucas paired Mascherano in central midfield.
It’s little surprise that much of the pre-match talk has centered on Gerrard and Torres. Some quotes from Stevie:
"He's brilliant, fantastic. I wouldn't swap him for any other striker anywhere," said Gerrard.
"He has been massive for us and gives us so many different options up front. He's banging them in and always looks a threat every time he plays.
"The lad who comes into their side for Materazzi will not be looking forward to his 90 minutes against Fernando.
"We will be looking to hit them on the counter-attack and Torres plays that game better than anyone around.
"Not only can you stick the ball over the top and let him chase it, but he can make things happen himself like he did against Marseille earlier in the tournament, when we needed to win in France to go through to the last 16.
"He roasted Materazzi in the first-leg. He (Materazzi) might think he was hard-done-by to be sent-off but he could have been booked for a bad tackle before he had one yellow, never mind the second one.
"It shows how easy Torres' pace and strength unsettled a World Cup winner.
"You can play him on his own or with a partner and he just adapts perfectly.”
The counter-attack is the key part of that, and will be crucial on Tuesday with Inter in need of at least two goals. Torres and Gerrard absolutely flayed Newcastle on the break Saturday; Torres’ goal, from Gerrard’s first-time throughball, will assuredly be on my ‘goals of the season’ list. You can see the progression in the partnership in every game, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t continue.
And I’m writing this while knocking furiously on wood, but Inter has issues in central defense. Materazzi is suspended because of last match’s sending off. Cordoba picked up an injury late in the first leg (before Liverpool scored their two goals), while Samuel is a long-term casualty, but it looks like Chivu will return to partner Nicolas Burdisso. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Inter plays five in midfield and three at the back either.
Little else needs to be said in conclusion. We’ve been waiting for this match since De Bleeckere blew time for the first leg. The two goals, by no means assuring a result, set Liverpool up nicely to progress.
But Inter aren’t leading Serie A by default, and the San Siro will be a daunting venue. Nevertheless, Liverpool’s been in this position before, and are well aware what’s needed on these European nights.