15 September 2010

Liverpool v Steaua Bucharest 09.16.10

3:05pm ET, live in the US on DirecTV channel 481 (and should be in HD on 481-1).

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Birmingham (a); 1-0 West Brom (h); 2-1 Trabzonspor (a)
Steaua: 0-1 Unirea (a); 1-1 Timisoara (h); 0-1 Grasshoppers (a)

Qualifying Rounds:
Liverpool: 2-1 Trabzonspor (a); 1-0 Trabzonspor (h); 2-0 Rabotnicki (h); 2-0 Rabotnicki (a)
Steaua: 0-1 Grasshoppers (a); 1-0 Grasshoppers (h) [Steaua wins tie on penalties 4-3]

Referee: César Muñiz Fernández (ESP)

Guess at a line-up:
Reina
Kelly Kyrgiakos Agger Konchesky
Meireles Spearing
Maxi Cole Babel
Ngog

This is tomorrow's team according to one of the "in the know" posters on RAWK – one that's almost always correct. While I assumed that multiple players would be rested – and would have guessed a line-up without Torres, Gerrard, Carragher, and Johnson prior to seeing this – the amount of first-teamers missing (if the above is the case, which I'd bet it is) still comes as a bit of a shock.

What jumps out is the inclusion of both Babel and Ngog, despite Hodgson publicly claiming to see the Dutchman as a striker (which makes me wonder if Liverpool will play two up top) and the exclusion of Pacheco, one who seemed certain to start these sort of matches. And Spearing starting in place of either Lucas and Poulsen, which hopefully means both aren't being rested to start in tandem again on Sunday. But it's not a line-up I'd be upset with; I don't mean to take anything away from the opposition, but Hodgson promised to use the full squad in the Europa League, and it's a lot easier to rest the big names in a home match against Steaua instead of away to Napoli. There's talent, experience, and potential in the above team.

Otherwise, Meireles will make his debut in the starting XI, Maxi keeps his place in an attempt to find form with Kuyt injured, Cole seemingly goes straight back into the hole (again, unless it's 4-4-2), Kelly thankfully gets another chance at right back, Kyrgiakos is still in plans as a defensive behemoth (despite my desire for an Agger/Skrtel pairing), and it'll be nice to see Reina with the armband (he has to captain that XI). It's not Liverpool's strongest XI by any stretch, but it's still a team that are odds-on favorite to win, with some interesting facets. I'm most interested in Meireles' performance, but also both Babel and Ngog involved, and Kelly with another chance to demonstrate his talents.

Like I wrote when the draw was made, I won't pretend to have any familiarity with Steaua Bucharest – currently third in the Romanian League, behind the two other big Bucharest sides. Instead, I'll point you in the direction of the blogosphere's go-to site for Romanian football, and what he wrote about Steaua yesterday. As the author notes in that link, Steaua have a fair few players familiar to Liverpool from last year's matches against Unirea Urziceni. I'll also air what Agger said in today's press conference, because it's probably coming from the manager's instructions: "Steaua are a typical Eastern European team. We played in Macedonia earlier and obviously Steaua are a bigger club and a stronger team, but they're similar kind of players."

Ideally, no matter the line-up, Liverpool will replicate the result from those two matches against the Macedonians.

1 comment:

Mike Georger said...

I have this sinking feeling that Cole won't be starting at OT.