12:30pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 11.22.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 04.19.08
2-0 Liverpool (h) 11.10.07
0-1 Fulham (a) 05.05.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 5-0 Villa (h); 4-1 United (a); 4-0 Real (h)
Fulham: 2-0 United (h); 3-1 Bolton (a); 1-2 Blackburn (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard 13; Torres 9; Kuyt 8; Alonso, Benayoun, Riera 3; Aurelio, Babel 2; Arbeloa, Carragher, Dossena, Hyypia, Ngog 1
Fulham: Johnson 7; Dempsey 5; Murphy 4; Davies, Gera, Nevland, Zamora 2; Hangeland, Kamara, Konchesky, Seol 1
Referee: Steve Bennett. Oh goody!
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
12 players (Gerrard, Torres, Alonso, Riera, Reina, Arbeloa, Kuyt, Mascherano, Benayoun, Agger, Skrtel, and Hyypia) featured for their international clubs over the break. Two of those – Yossi and Sami – assuredly won’t play due to injury. And after returning from Bolivia’s high altitude, where Argentina lost 1-6, I worry whether Mascherano will as well. Hopefully he’s so enraged by the loss he’ll insist on playing, but we rarely see Masch right after he plays for his country. Maybe Aurelio will fill in, with Insua covering at left back (both stayed at Melwood), but Lucas seems more likely.
(EDIT: I probably should have checked the Echo and Daily Post before writing the previous paragraph. For what it's worth, the Daily Post is reporting that no matter Masch's trip, he'll keep his place against Fulham.)
It was one of the worst possible times for a break with the form the team was in. And Liverpool will undoubtedly shuffle the pack somewhat to compensate for international duty, as well as the upcoming three games in one week. But a fair few players kept up momentum: both Riera and Kuyt continued their scoring form following Villa, while Alonso also tallied from the spot on Wednesday. Gerrard played well in both of England’s qualifiers, and Torres made it through Spain’s unscathed (which is all that matters).
The trickiest line-up question comes in defense. Agger or Skrtel? Both played two matches for their countries and Agger’s only recently back, but I think the Dane will start. We’ve seen more stories about Agger’s return to fitness (like this one), and I think Liverpool would benefit from having Agger’s ability on the ball against what’s likely to be a compressed Fulham side.
Fulham’s up to 9th after beating United (thanks, by the way) before the break, and have also upset Arsenal at Craven Cottage. And held Chelsea to a draw. In fact, they’re fourth in the home league table, behind United, Liverpool, and City, with 9 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses.
Not to mention the little factor of a 0-0 draw last November. This was one of those poor home results that still irk, and still linger in the memory. Fulham will be a tough side regardless, but Liverpool certainly have extra incentive to get one over on the opposition.
I always worry after an international week. The team hasn’t played for two weeks. There’s always some sort of hangover. But three points are beyond essential. I can’t think of a more crucial eight-game stretch than the one on the horizon.