10am EST, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 09.22.07
1-0 Liverpool (a; Carling Cup) 11.08.06
7-0 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 03.21.06
1-1 (h) 02.01.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Chelsea (h); 2-0 Fulham (a); 3-1 Blackburn (h)
Brum: 1-5 Villa (a); 1-1 Everton (h); 0-2 Wigan (a)
Liverpool: Torres 22; Gerrard 11; Babel, Crouch, Voronin 4; Benayoun, Kuyt 3; Alonso, Pennant 2; Aurelio, Hyypia, Mascherano, Sissoko 1
Brum: Forssell 8; Jerome, Kapo, Larsson 5; McFadden, Zarate 4; McSheffrey 3; O’Connor 2; Muamba, Ridgewell 1
Referee: Peter Walton
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Skrtel Insua
Pennant Voronin Benayoun
Well, at least Steve Bruce doesn’t manage Birmingham anymore. We’ll see if they’re still a bogey team without him (other than the 7-0 FA Cup romp, there have been far too many draws in recent history between the sides).
We will assuredly see a comparable team to the one against Fulham last week; I’d be surprised by more than a couple of changes from the side that won 2-0 last Saturday.
I said similar last week, but the fact that neither Plessis nor Insua played with the reserves last night should mean they’ll feature on Saturday. Nemeth and San Jose, on the other hand, did start in the loss to Marine in the Liverpool Senior Cup.
Plessis could spell Mascherano, and I’m interested to see him get a second opportunity after doing well against Arsenal in the league, while Insua seems even more likely after Aurelio’s injury. However, Benitez may want to play Arbeloa at left back if that’s where he’ll play against Chelsea, as I believe he’s only featured in that position twice in 2008 (against Arsenal in the league and at Boro in January). Or, Riise could start at left back with Benitez looking to get the player’s mind off the last match. But of course, I’d prefer Insua; having declared something of a man-crush from his appearances last season, I’m getting the shakes not seeing him in the first team yet this year.
Once again, I expect Liverpool to rest both Gerrard and Torres with an eye on Chelsea. But I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Gerrard off the bench in order to keep him fresh for Wednesday, especially if he’s fully recovered from that neck injury. But please, keep Torres covered in bubble wrap, just in case (as he was against Fulham). I cannot emphasize enough just how important El Niño will be on Wednesday, but after his season so far, I reckon I don't need to.
Last time out, Birmingham lost 1-5 to their city rivals Villa, which probably makes them even more dangerous, as McLeish won’t have tolerated that performance and it’s probably been a long week of training. Plus, that loss put them amongst the relegation places, with Bolton and Reading a point ahead of them. Birmingham’s also unbeaten in six at St Andrews since losing 0-1 to Chelsea in January, including games against both Arsenal and Everton.
Damien Johnson’s still serving a three-match suspension, while both Larsson and Kapo look likely to return to the side. Despite Mauro Zarate’s excellent second half of the season since coming to Brum on loan, he’ll still probably feature off the bench as an impact substitute. And having scouted Insua, who played in the same Argentina U-20 team, as well as having an extensive network in Argentina, Benitez will be familiar with the player.
It’d probably be a lie to say all eyes weren’t focused on next Wednesday. But once again, Liverpool still doesn’t have fourth spot fully secured, while a win here would help the side going into the match against Chelsea, even if there are wholesale changes like against Fulham. A win is a win is a win, and Liverpool could certainly do with one after the kick to the groin that was the last match.