17 September 2010

Liverpool at Manchester United 09.19.10

Live in the US at 8:30am ET on Fox Soccer Plus

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 United (a) 03.21.10
2-0 Liverpool (h) 10.25.09
4-1 Liverpool (a) 03.14.09
2-1 Liverpool (h) 09.13.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Steaua (h); 0-0 Birmingham (a); 1-0 West Brom (h)
United: 0-0 Rangers (h); 3-3 Everton (a); 3-0 West Ham (h)

Referee: Howard Webb

Webb played a blinder as United's 12th man in last March's meeting.

Guess at a lineup:
Reina
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Maxi Lucas Poulsen Cole
Gerrard
Torres

No matter yesterday's result, I can't help but think the majority of players rested – the ones who featured in the 0-0 draw at Birmingham – will be back in the side.

In fact, the above lineup isn't even my best guess at the starting XI. If forced to wager money, I'd guess Jovanovic in for Lucas, shifting Gerrard back into midfield with Cole in the hole. The lineup I'd prefer is also different than the above, as I'd have Meireles in place of Poulsen and Agger over Skrtel, but I thought this might be a "happy" – and more likely – compromise.

Meireles did well yesterday, especially in the second half, where there was more movement in front of him, but I still question whether Hodgson will give him his league debut at Old Trafford. Despite the complaints (many valid) about the Lucas/Poulsen pairing against Birmingham, West Brom, and Trabzonspor, the duo represents 'safety first' and keeping a disciplined shape, and I have to believe those will be the qualities Hodgson values most on Sunday.

Moving Gerrard to central midfield with Cole back from suspension would mean one of two would be dropped. But even if it means a Lucas/Poulsen midfield, I'd rather we see Cole out left, in place of Jovanovic, instead of the hole. Cole could also feature on the right if Hodgson's concerned about Maxi playing three consecutive games.

Liverpool have struggled for goals in the league, scoring only twice in four games. I naturally worry about Gerrard and Torres isolated and frustrated if the team lines up as I'm guessing, but a clean sheet will undoubtedly be the priority. Plus, regardless of current form, we're well aware either of those players can create something from nothing, especially Liverpool's #9 when he's up against Nemanja Vidic, who's been sent off three times in the last four meetings. Rio Ferdinand most likely making his first league start of the season after this summer's knee injury could also lead to fun times.

As always with matches against United, despite Liverpool's record in the last four meetings, I'm pessimistic and terrified. I cannot stand these derbies. United's a wounded animal after its last two games: unable to penetrate Rangers' 10-man rearguard on Tuesday and dropping two points after conceding two injury time goals at Everton six days ago. I expect to see both Rooney and Berbatov up front, while Nani – with a far bigger role to play following Valencia's horrific injury – terrorized Konchesky in a substitute appearance when United faced Fulham earlier this season (before missing a crucial penalty). The Mancs will be licking their lips in anticipation of this one after Ferguson's inevitable patented hair-dryer treatment, and it'll be up to Liverpool to match them step for step.

6 comments:

Bryce said...

I apologize in advance for the bad attitude, and I know I am not offering much of a new perspective, but . . . I don't know if I can watch another match with Lucas/Poulson as the central midfield pairing. I really have nothing against either player, but the combination of these two very defensive-minded midfielders just makes the game almost unwatchable these days. These tactics make the wins and losses both pretty unappealing viewing experiences. In addition, I am afraid it will lead Torres to thoughts of suicide if he gets isolated with no service for yet another match.

Bryce said...

On the other hand, reading Nate's twitter feed during the match does give me a nice "misery loves company" feeling.

nate said...

Ha, I'm glad you enjoy it.

I am completely irrational during matches and often wonder how I get my act together to write reviews after the fact.

Sunday will be the first game vs the Mancs where I'll tweet while watching. I'm absolutely afraid of what I'll type. Not that it'll stop me...

Matt said...

Just a thought... What do you think of this lineup:
Reina
Johnson Carra Agger Konchesky
Maxi Meireles Jovanovic
Gerrard Cole
Torres

I know there is no way it would happen against United this time around. I just feel that the formation should be made to fit the talents of the squad, not the talents of the squad made to fit the formation. Gerrard and Cole are both great attacking midfielders, so put them up top. I would love to see the combination that a Cole, Torres, and Gerrard triangle up top could produce.

nate said...

Can think of very few sides who play that Christmas tree formation. Venables and Hoddle used it with England in the 90s, Ancelotti used it with AC Milan, but otherwise, I'm struggling to think of examples, especially recently. There has to be a reason for that, but I'm not Zonal Marking enough to know it.

In theory, yeah, it could work. And I imagine we'll see those XI players at some time, but probably not that formation; Gerrard in CM with Maxi and Jova as wingers. However,

1) Jovanovic isn't anywhere near enough of a midfielder for that formation. Maybe Meireles wide with Poulsen holding or straight swap for Lucas.

2) More importantly, would depend on the roles defined by the manager. Would Gerrard and Cole try to take up the same attacking midfield positions? Can they be trusted to know when to move wide and when to come centrally (and both would need to go wide at points), and not play atop each other/cancel each other out? Would Torres drop deep at other times, making it ostensibly a 4-3-3?

As apparent from the diagram, it's a narrow formation. Which would mean Konchesky and Johnson would have to provide most of the width. Which isn't a new situation, just thought it worth a mention. It's even narrower than the 4-2-3-1, especially if Gerrard and Cole are the attacking midfielders (unlike, say, Kuyt and Jova/Babel etc).

It also necessitates classic pass-and-move, quick thinking, fluid football from the midfield forward. Which we haven't seen much of this season, no matter how early it is.

So – and I really don't mean this condescendingly; this is the sort of 'fun on the Internet' argument I enjoy – it seems more like a FIFA/Football Manager formation than likely to happen on the pitch.

matt said...

Fair enough; I honestly didn't think you'd would put that much thought into my post--so thanks for actually thinking about it--but, I think you are correct. It is more of a FIFA formation. And the width was the biggest concern I had, and it's not a new one, considering the left side over the past couple of years. To be honest, I don't really know newer players very well, I have no idea if Jova would have worked on the wing. As I live in America and am a poor college student, I'm pretty much limited to your blog for Liverpool news, and the occasional match on ESPN...which is not nearly enough.

You do a great job with "Oh You Beauty"--keep it up!