Another match for the DVR. There have been way too many Wednesday afternoon games recently. I won’t have a review up until late night.
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Chelsea (h); 1-1 Wigan (a); 1-1 Everton (h)
Everton: 0-1 United (a); 1-1 Arsenal (h); 1-1 Liverpool (a)
Goalscorers (all competitions):
Liverpool: Gerrard 15; Torres 8; Kuyt 7; Riera 4; Alonso, Babel 3; Benayoun, Hyypia 2; Agger, Arbeloa, Carragher, Lucas, Ngog, Plessis 1
Everton: Cahill 6; Arteta, Yakubu 5; Fellaini, Lescott, Osman 4; Saha 3; Anichebe, Castillo, Gosling, Jagielka 1
Referee: Alan Wiley
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun
With Chelsea three days before and Pompey three days after, tomorrow will certainly see some changes. I’m not suggesting the trip to Portsmouth is more important – yes, it’s the league, but this is a derby – but with the timing of the fixtures, it’s easier to rest players on Wednesday. Plus, yeah, one eye is always on the league. It comes with the territory of being in the hunt in February.
My best guess is that Riera and Aurelio will be two to miss out, and possibly Skrtel as well. Aurelio rarely plays three games a week, and will need to stay fit with Insua still with Argentina. Riera, on the other hand, has looked gassed in the last couple of games, and Yossi could benefit by starting after his performance against Chelsea. Babel’s inclusion wouldn’t surprise me either – I have to expect he’ll be the primary beneficiary of Keane’s departure.
If Alonso weren’t suspended for Portsmouth thanks to his fifth yellow of the season, he’d probably be rested given that, like Aurelio, he rarely plays two matches in three days. I’m not positive that it’s Pompey that he’s ruled out for – it might be seven days before the ban kicks in, and he’d miss the next FA Cup match if Liverpool win tomorrow – but if he’s out Saturday, he won’t be tomorrow.
And even though I wrote that I hope he plays every match from now until May, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Torres on the bench. Despite his return to form, he isn’t long removed from a lengthy injury, and Benitez may play it safe with his fitness. Obviously, I’m hoping it won’t happen, and would rather Torres miss Saturday if it comes to that, but it’s possible. If Torres is rested, I’d rather Babel instead of Kuyt up top, as it looks like Babel might be drafted in as striker to fill the void left by Keane.
Everton picked up Jo on loan from City, but he should be cup-tied having come off the bench in the fiasco against Forest. Chances are that Everton’s lineup will be very similar to the team faces two weeks ago, except I’d be surprised if Fellaini was left out again.
Being at home should bring the Toffees out of their shell a bit, and there should be more space to operate. Even after the heady win over Chelsea, questions remain over Liverpool’s cutting edge. It took until the last minute of the match to break down a 10-man Chelsea, while the infuriating draws aren’t yet removed from the memory.
This match can’t finish with honors even. If it gets that far, there’s extra time and penalties. But that’s the last thing this team needs with games coming fast and thick, and the squad a man shorter up front.
Hopefully, the adrenaline boost that comes with playing the city rivals (for the third time in a month) will be enough to make sure it doesn’t get that far. I think we’re all in agreement that the league comes first, but Merseyside bragging rights – not to mention a chance at an FA Cup run – aren’t far off.
Also, this is unrelated, but I wanted to link a fantastic column about Rafa in case others don’t see it, even though it doesn’t deserve it’s own post. Sometimes, like today, I reckon I don’t check Football365 as often as I should, and sometimes I do and all the opinions piss me off. But this is a super read.
My favorite bit:
Trying to break the stranglehold that Manchester United and Arsenal have had on the league for so many years is no small task. He is up against two of the best managers of the modern era with so much momentum and experience behind them. After all, he's 11 years younger than Wenger and nearly 20 younger than Fergie and is surely still learning the art of English management. It's not unreasonable to assume his best, most successful years are still ahead of him in English football.But it’s all very good.
It is almost totally down to Rafa that as a neutral, I want Liverpool to win the league, if only to seem him stick it to his critics both within and without the club and their ability to beat the other top clubs may yet be the key to them doing that.