7:45am, live in the US on espn2
Last 4 head-to-head:
1-1 (h) 02.22.09
3-2 Liverpool (a) 10.05.08
1-0 Liverpool (h) 05.04.08
0-0 (a) 12.30.07
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Brum (h); 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-3 Fulham (a)
City: 3-3 Burnley (h); 0-0 Brum (a); 5-1 Scunthorpe (h)
Liverpool: Torres 10; Gerrard 4; Benayoun, Kuyt, Ngog 3; Babel, Johnson 2
City: Bellamy 5; Adebayor 4; Petrov 3; Tevez, Wright-Phillips 2; Barry, Ireland, Lescott, Richards, Toure 1
Referee: Phil Dowd
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Aurelio
Okay, so what’s going on with this Serbian horse placenta lady? The story came out after Van Persie’s ankle injury, we all had a few good laughs at the Arsenal striker, and that was that. And then four of Liverpool’s injured players – Benayoun, Riera, Aurelio, and Johnson – went to Serbia for treatment of their own. And now, all four have trained with the team, and Benitez has declared them available. The mind boggles.
With Gerrard, Agger, and Ngog (who broke his nose during the international break; hopefully he'll have one of those awesome Rip Hamilton masks) also back, the injury crisis seems a lot better. I’d be very surprised if Riera or Benayoun started given how both pulled up lame less than two weeks ago, but otherwise, the only player assuredly out is Torres.
It’s probably too soon for Aurelio – horse placenta or not – as well. But as said in the “Copy Chelsea” post a few days back, if it comes down to Aurelio or Babel on the left flank, I’d rather Aurelio in almost every situation. That Liverpool is playing City, an exceptionally dangerous team, especially on the counter, Aurelio seems the far safer option. I’ve never been enamored with Shawn Wright-Phillips, but if he’s one-on-one with Insua for long stretches, it could be a long day for the little Argentinean.
A reprieve from the massive casualty list should prevent Aquilani from starting. This article from the official site yesterday seems like definitive proof he won’t make the first XI. Of course, it could be yet another gambit by Benitez, but I still think Aqua will make at least one more appearance from the bench before starting (i.e. wait until Debrecen).
Benitez discussing Gareth Barry with Tony Evans a couple of days ago seems a similar attempt at mind games. Can’t be coincidence that Benitez gives a wide-ranging interview, with his most candid remarks on the Barry transfer saga, before Liverpool faces Barry’s new team, can it? I thoroughly enjoy when Benitez plays mind games.
Despite City’s run of five straight league draws, they’re still an eminently dangerous side. Adebayor, Tevez, Bellamy, Santa Cruz, and Ireland are all first class attackers, and then there are Wright-Phillips, Petrov, and Barry, among others. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy a hell of a football team. Bellamy and Petrov, as well as Robinho, as listed as likely out through injury on the BBC, but I’m hesitant to trust that outlet, especially since they still think Carragher’s suspended (a red card professional foul is a one-game suspension, you rubes).
As usual, every game’s massive with the team struggling for points. But this is as big as the United ‘backs against the wall’ match. That United win remains Liverpool’s lone three-pointer since the end of September. Even with a run of five draws, City still sits one point above Liverpool in the standings with a game in hand. Three points here will push Liverpool up at least one place, if not into fourth if other results go their way.
No other result is an option.