10am, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h) 08.23.08
3-2 Liverpool (h) 02.23.08
1-1 (a) 01.12.08
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.18.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Real Madrid (a); 1-1 City (h); 3-2 Pompey (a)
Boro: 2-0 West Ham (h); 0-0 Wigan (h); 1-1 West Ham (a)
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Torres 8; Kuyt 7; Alonso 3; Babel, Benayoun, Riera 2; Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia 1
Boro: Alves, Tuncay 4; Aliadiere, O’Neil 2; Pogatetz, Wheater 1
Referee: Rob Styles
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Insua
Benayoun Gerrard Babel
Yes, there’s some very big news around Liverpool, and I reckon it’s led to a happier manager, but there are more important things going on. Like football.
I know Gerrard’s only recently back from a few weeks out, and played only a few minutes on Wednesday, but he’ll be crucial in Torres’ absence. I’d be surprised if the Spaniard missed more than two games, but there’s little reason for him to be risked before then with the way his season’s gone.
This front six would be nearly the same as that which beat Newcastle 5-1 two months ago – the only difference would be Alonso for Lucas, which I’m pretty sure we’ll all agree is an upgrade. With Torres out, Riera looking gassed, and Benayoun in fine form, I can’t see much different, and hope not to.
I was pleased with Babel’s performance off the bench two days ago. He may not have stood out, but he had little chance to as a lone striker away to Madrid. There seemed a notable change in his attitude, and that makes all the difference. He looked hungry, showed for the ball, and worked hard against Pepe and Cannavaro, both of whom were kicking everything that moved. He put his head down and got to work, and that’s exactly what Ryan needs to do more consistently.
I’m less certain about the backline, even though that’s where Rafa’s more reticent to rotate. I’d be surprised if Aurelio started two games in four days, so we might see Dossena start, as against City, but I’d rather Insua now that he’s back in the squad. Agger’s still out with a back injury, so it should be Carra and Skrtel in the middle; with two of Tuncay, Alves, and Aliadiere likely to start, Hyypia’s height won’t be as essential as Skrtel and Carra’s quicker pace (relatively speaking).
Don’t be fooled by Boro sitting in 19th or by their league record of three draws and three losses since the New Year. Liverpool hasn’t won in Middlesbrough since 2002. During that six-game spell, Liverpool’s has three scoreless draws, two losses, and one 1-1 (last season). One goal in six years, courtesy of Fernando Torres, is not a good record.
Here’s hoping that changes tomorrow.