10am, live in the US on FSC
Regular readers are probably used to my disappearances during international breaks. Once again, I can only apologize and thank people for returning when it’s over. You know that if there’s breaking news, I usually find a way to chime in.
With that apology said, now let me apologize in advance for not having a review up right after Sunday’s game. I’m pretty sure this is the last time it’ll conflict with my college basketball tickets. I suck. I’m sorry. Review should be up by 4pm.
Last 4 head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 10.05.08
1-0 Liverpool (h) 05.04.08
0-0 (a) 12.30.07
0-0 (a) 04.14.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-2 Pompey (a); 0-1 Everton (a); 2-0 Chelsea (h)
City: 2-2 Copenhagen (a); 0-2 Pompey (a); 1-0 Boro (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Torres 8; Kuyt 6; Alonso 3; Babel, Benayoun, Riera 2; Arbeloa, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia 1
City: Robinho 11; Ireland 7; Wright-Phillips 4; Elano, Sturridge 3; Bellamy, Caicedo 2; Benjani, Dunne, Evans, Fernandes, Garrido, Kompany, Zabaleta 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Insua
Kuyt Benayoun Riera
It’s the start of a crucial three-game week that sees trips to Madrid and Middlesbrough after this match. So, with Gerrard ruled out and Alonso suspended (instead of Lucas), do we see the 3-4-2-1 again?
Short answer? I doubt it, but you can never be sure with Benitez.
As evidenced by the two posts promoting the system and the general delight that comes with a win like that at Pompey, I enjoyed the formation an awful lot two Saturdays ago. But I doubt – and this is speculation, as usual – it’s going to be a recurring theme. It was first and foremost a short-term fix for the absences of two central midfielders and the main striker.
Granted, circumstances are similar other than the likely return of Torres. And it’s not a stretch to suggest that the purchases of Dossena, Degen, and Keane (and the attempted purchase of Barry) were with that formation in mind – wingbacks help explain all four.
But I’ve argued for the 4-2-3-1 past the point of sanity, and to hell if I’m changing my tune mid-stream. I still think that formation best suits Torres and Gerrard, and is what Benitez should be building towards. If I’m wrong, I throw my hands up and write another 800 words in support of what the manager’s doing. But (for once) I think it’s more likely that I’m right.
Which would lead to the familiar formation I’ve guessed six paragraphs earlier. Benayoun in the Gerrard role (his preferred position), Kuyt and Riera on the flanks, Torres up top, and Masch and Lucas (Alonso’s serving a one-game suspension for accumulated yellows) holding. A similar formation (but with Gerrard and Alonso) beat City 3-2 at Anfield, and they wouldn’t have needed a comeback had Liverpool taken one of the many chances to clear the ball before it fell to the feet of Ireland and/or had Garrido not hit the free kick of his life.
There’s definitely an argument for Aurelio in midfield after the game he had against Pompey. I’d rather see Insua at left back, needing to find his feet having recently returned from the U-20 tournament, but Aurelio certainly merits a place after the last match. However, even though Lucas had two matches to forget before his suspension, Benitez will probably keep faith with the young midfielder given recent history and past pronouncements.
City’s shown that you win by attacking them. Robinho, Ireland, et al can only do so much when the defense lets in 22 goals in 12 away matches. Under pressure, Mark Hughes might park the bus and hope for the best, but I can’t see it with this squad; City’s only had one scoreless draw all season: hosting PSV in the UEFA Cup in December. And there’ll be space to operate if City plays like City, but Liverpool will assuredly be wary of the counter attack if defenders get caught up field, especially the likes of Craig Bellamy. Facing former players always frightens me.
Benitez and others have been quoted recently saying that Liverpool need to win every league game from here on out. That’s enough of a synopsis