3pm, live in the US on espn2
Sorry this is late, but I wanted to wait given the injuries and the game being on Monday. Posting on Friday morning like usual would have meant even more baseless speculation over who’s available.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-2 (a) 04.26.08
0-0 (h) 09.22.07
1-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 11.08.06
7-0 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 03.21.06
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-3 Fulham (a); 1-2 Arsenal (a)
Brum: 0-0 City (h); 2-1 Sunderland (h); 1-3 Arsenal (a)
Liverpool: Torres 10; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 3; Babel, Johnson, Ngog 2
Brum: Bowyer, McFadden 2; Larsson, O’Connor, Phillips, Ridgewell 1
Referee: Peter Walton
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Insua
Kuyt Benayoun Aurelio
At least are looking a little brighter on the injury front, even if we’re still massively unsure whether Gerrard or Torres will need surgery thanks to contradictory reports. But Benitez was much more positive over Johnson, Aurelio, Skrtel, and Riera, which would be a huge boon.
At the same time, both Degen and Carragher are suspended. Degen’s out for three games for serious foul play, while Carragher will only miss this match for a professional foul. Given the injury troubles and recent form, it’s certainly not the best time to be missing two defenders, including the vice-captain.
At least it sounds like Skrtel, Agger, and Johnson should be available, as would Aurelio, but I think he’s more likely to feature in midfield. And to be honest, this is a “good” game for Liverpool’s defense. Chances are that Birmingham will try to frustrate Liverpool at Anfield. Although the team’s struggled for goals, and will find it difficult to break down a very resilient Birmingham side, it’s seemingly safer than teams going on the attack against a fragile Liverpool, which has happened more in 17 games this season than in years past. Obviously, Liverpool will have to be wary on the break, especially of Chucho.
And I can’t write a preview without mentioning Torres, especially since I’m guessing he’ll miss out. Benitez argues he’s been getting better, and wants to hold off on surgery. I’d argue that he should sit this one out and rest for a full two weeks with the international break coming up. The depth at striker means he’d have to be on the bench, just in case, but Liverpool should be able to survive without him. Although I just had a seriously bad flashback to 0-0 against Birmingham at Anfield two seasons ago, when Kuyt and Voronin started in place of Torres, which inspired this post.
And at the same time, I wouldn’t mind seeing Babel get a chance in Torres’ spot after Wednesday’s match. Ngog has been Torres’ primary backup, but given the boost to Babel’s confidence after Wednesday – and yes, the need to give him a few games in a row and see if the Dutchman can do a job – I’m curious.
However, I’d still rather Aurelio or even Riera on the left, as long as it doesn’t mean Voronin in the hole. If we’re talking about Babel in midfield, the post under this one still stands: I do think Babel’s better off the bench. Both Aurelio and Riera are more secure defensively, especially when the opposition counters. And even though I’ve questioned the threat Brum will provide, Liverpool will still need to be on their guard.
And I hate when Liverpool plays Birmingham, although at least Steve Bruce, who remains a bogeyman for Benitez, isn’t the manager anymore. Let’s just pretend it’s a cup game; the last time Liverpool beat Birmingham in the league was 2004, seven games ago. Garry O’Connor will miss out through injury, while captain Barry Ferguson is suspended.
Birmingham are tied with Hull for the fewest goals scored, but they’ve only let in 12, better than any other bottom-half side and four goals fewer than Liverpool. McLeish has the team very well-organized at the back, which frightens given Liverpool’s recent reliance on a half-fit Torres for goals.
The upcoming international break, more meaningless than usual as Kyrgiakos is the only player involved in the playoffs, finally arrives, and it’s at a surprisingly good time. Hopefully, the break will allow Liverpool to lessen the massive casualty list. But they need to go into the break with a good result, or it’ll be two more weeks of ‘what’s wrong with Liverpool?’ in the media.