12:30pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 4 head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (h) 03.20.04
1-1 (a) 01.21.04
0-1 Wolves (h) 01.14.84
1-1 (a) 08.27.83
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-2 Portsmouth (a); 2-1 Wigan (h); 1-2 Arsenal (h)
Wolves: 2-0 Burnley (h); 0-3 United (a); 1-0 Spurs (a)
Liverpool: Torres 11; Kuyt 5; Benayoun, Gerrard, Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Skrtel 1
Wolves: Doyle 5; Craddock 4; Milijas 2; Ebanks-Blake, Edwards, Keogh, Maierhofer, Steadman 1
Referee: Andre Marriner
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Benayoun Lucas Gerrard Aurelio
What are the chances of Wolves making 10 changes for this game?
Masch is out for the next four matches, Benitez wants to rest Kuyt, and certain players (specifically Torres and Gerrard) have to be managed with games coming fast and thick. With only three days between tomorrow’s contest and the trip to Villa, Rafa may be tempted to leave out more than just Kuyt.
I guess the question is whether Liverpool will stick with the same formation despite the results and player availability. Was the 4-4-2 against Wigan an aberration or the sign of things to come? Will Gerrard drop deeper in midfield in Mascherano’s absence – like against Burnley, Stoke, and Hull – or will Benitez draft in Aurelio, Aquilani, or Spearing?
The other option I debated guessing was the 4-2-3-1, with a front six of Lucas, Gerrard; Benayoun, Aquilani, Aurelio; Torres. Even though Benitez said that Aquilani would play between Gerrard and Lucas/Masch when he arrived, I think Gerrard’s struggles further forward take precedence. He hasn’t looked the same player since returning from injury, and it’s clear Liverpool’s woes aren’t helping him recover. I wonder if moving Gerrard deeper, giving him more time on the ball and a bigger role in the build-up, would help both him and the team.
Regardless, I reckon the above guess at a line-up is the more likely, despite the change in formation. Mascherano’s absence forces Liverpool’s hand to a certain extent, as would Kuyt’s if Benitez truly does rest him. But having Lucas and Gerrard in the middle should provide enough of a shield against Wolves, while pairing Ngog and Torres up front might aid Liverpool’s one-dimensional attack. Torres’ inclusion is up in the air with the Villa game so soon, but Liverpool can’t afford to leave him out of any match at the moment, fitness be damned.
All three promoted teams have been better than expected – even Wolves, who only moved out of the relegation zone last week. McCarthy was right to make the changes against the Mancs – they weren’t taking anything from that regardless of United’s form and injuries, and it allowed players to be fit for the six-pointer over Burnley last weekend. Aside from the impressive win at White Hart Lane, Wolves have also held Villa and Everton, and have won three of their last four fixtures (a record Liverpool would kill for at the moment). Kevin Doyle should be the biggest threat, one Liverpool’s familiar after his time with Reading.
A year ago, Liverpool were top of the league, and won the Boxing Day fixture 3-0 over Bolton. 12 months later and the club’s unrecognizable, 14 points behind Chelsea and eight behind 4th place. But the team can only remedy the situation one match at a time.