10am, live in the US on Setanta.
Last 4 head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 08.29.09
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.15.08
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.02.08
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Wolves (a); 2-0 Spurs (h); 1-1 Stoke (a)
Bolton: 1-0 Burnley (h); 2-0 Sheffield Utd (h); 2-4 Arsenal (a)
Liverpool: Torres 12; Kuyt 7; Benayoun, Gerrard 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Bolton: Klasnic 6; Cahill, Taylor 5; Lee 4; Cohen, Davies 3; Elmander 2; Gardner 1
Referee: Steve Bennett
Ugh. I guess Liverpool couldn't go a whole season without encountering that automaton.
Guess at a squad:
Carragher Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Gerrard Aquilani Riera
The above is a mix of the line-up I think Benitez will name and what I’d rather see. And it’s mainly because I’m afraid Liverpool will again look to stifle before playing football, even against Bolton at Anfield. And I doubt that’s the best way forward.
Chances are Gerrard’s not lining up on the right of a 4-2-3-1. It’ll probably be Kuyt or Maxi out there depending on whether it’s Kuyt or Ngog up top. But there’s no escaping Gerrard’s form at the moment, and he’s struggled as a second striker (especially without Torres) and in central midfield. 2005-06 is a distant memory, but there’s some precedent for Stevie chipping in goals from the flanks, and it would allow Aquilani, Lucas, and Mascherano to start. Also, I can hear Georger cheering in front of his computer at this idea.
Yes, I was very tempted to “drop” Lucas or Mascherano. And it might even happen. But, going off recent performances – especially the last match – Benitez will first and foremost not want to concede. And thus, even at home against Bolton, both Lucas and Masch will probably start. I wouldn’t be opposed to a line-up similar to 4-0 wins over Burnley and Stoke, which saw Lucas and Gerrard in central midfield, but that formation’s a lot harder to pull off without Torres, Benayoun, and Johnson.
The deeper defense, with Carragher on the right and Kyrgiakos playing, will probably remain as well. It’s firmed up the shaky rearguard, even if it’s hindered the attack by leading to hoofs forwards. And Kyrgiakos will be needed in dealing with Kevin Davies, as he was in August’s reverse fixture. At the same time, the team will have to mind tricky players like Lee and Cohen looking for knockdowns and second balls. And here’s hoping Liverpool doesn’t concede the sloppy free kicks prevalent in that last meeting.
Bolton will look to play more football than they did in August’s match thanks to having Owen Coyle as manager. Even away at Arsenal, Bolton stuck to the game plan and kept the ball on the deck, and went ahead 2-0. Of course, they ended up losing 2-4, but it’s still more than we can say for Liverpool of late.
Coyle picked up his first league win with Bolton, beating his old side on Tuesday. That victory brought Bolton out of the relegation zone, and will boost the side’s confidence. The clean sheet kept was Bolton’s first in 23 league matches. And with no new injuries, Coyle will probably name the same side tomorrow.
No rallying conclusion. No pacifying remarks about the chance for fourth place. Don’t care. Just win.