10am ET, live in the US on Fox Soccer Plus
Last four head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (a) 10.31.10
2-0 Liverpool (h) 01.30.10
3-2 Liverpool (a) 08.29.09
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.08
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Wolves (a); 0-0 Utrecht (h); 1-3 Newcastle (a)
Bolton: 0-1 Chelsea (a); 2-0 West Brom (h); 0-1 Sunderland (a)
Liverpool: Torres 5; Gerrard, Kuyt, Maxi 3; Kyrgiakos, Ngog 2; Johnson, Babel, Skrtel 1
Bolton: Elmander 9; K Davies 6; Petrov 3; Holden, Lee, Klasnic 2; Blake, M Davies, Knight, Muamba, Steinsson, Taylor 1
Referee: Kevin Friend
This will be the first time Friend's been in charge of a Liverpool match.
Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Kyrgiakos Agger Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Maxi
I have never rooted against Liverpool in my life. No matter how infuriated I get before, during, and after the matches – which you're well-aware of if you follow me on Twitter – I'm always hoping for a win. But because of the interminable Roy Hodgson situation, I'm as close as ever to wanting results go the wrong way. More losses = more criticism = more Hodgson out, which is absolutely for the greater good.
Ryan at The Good Men Project did an excellent job of summing up the Prisoner's Dilemma of fandom. Hoping for the worst goes against everything we're supposed to believe in, but in the long-term, would probably be for the best. Which is all well and good a day before the match. When 10am rolls around tomorrow, I'll probably be unable to separate the two, and will regress to living and dying with every kick of the ball, resuming the calls for Hodgson's head after the final whistle. Such is sport.
As to the actual match... will Roy make wholesale changes after Wednesday's embarrassment? Will he continue to stubbornly rely on 'his methods' or alter the lineup or formation after losing to Wolves?
Obviously, the above guess is mostly hope. It's nearly the same lineup I guessed going into Wednesday's match, and similar to the "ideal" posted in yesterday's analysis. Gerrard behind the striker instead of in central midfield, where Lucas and Meireles would resume their partnership. Kuyt on the right and Maxi on the left. Agger back in the fold, joined by Kyrgiakos instead of Skrtel because of Kevin Davies' aerial prowess. And since the guess is based more on hope than reality, Aurelio at left back, which is actually a possibility because of the cruel reception Konchesky received when substituted against Wolves. I do believe that Hodgson will try harder to 'give the fans what they want' after Wednesday's result. But we still probably won't see this many changes.
The trip to Bolton saw Liverpool seize its lone away win with a singular moment of magic from Torres in setting up Maxi's late goal. Were it not Liverpool's only road victory of the season, it'd be an impressive result given Bolton's improvement under Owen Coyle.
The Trotters currently sit sixth in the league, seven points ahead of Liverpool, albeit having played two more games. They gave Chelsea all it could handle on Wednesday, narrowly losing 0-1 at Stamford Bridge despite matching the defending champions for long stretches.
However, Bolton do have injury concerns and a shallow squad going into this game. O'Brien, Sean Davis, Ricardo Gardner, and Jlloyd Samuel are all long-term casualties. Stuart Holden, who's been a revelation this season, progressing by leaps and bounds, is doubtful after a knock taken against Chelsea, as is right-back Steinsson. Chung-Yong Lee is away at the Asian World Cup, Tamir Cohen is on compassionate leave after the death of his father (former Liverpool player Avi Cohen), and left-back Paul Robinson is suspended. Bolton will have only 15 or 16 players available for this match.
But that won't change Coyle's philosophy. There are still elements of the long ball tactics pervasive under the reigns of Allardyce and Megson, as Kevin Davies is still a linchpin, but Bolton play on the front foot far more often than not these days. They look to impose their game on the opposition instead of simple 'foul and hoof' nullification; these days, Hodgson's Liverpool looks more like Bolton than Bolton. And Coyle will be well-aware of Liverpool's current tactics and troubles.
This is at Anfield and begins a packed, crucial month for the club. There has to be a response following Wednesday's let-down; not only does Liverpool have to right the ship results-wise, they now have to restore normalcy at Anfield. Home form, the lone bright spot, cannot mirror away form. Liverpool cannot continue its inexorable slide towards the relegation zone.
Outside of removing the cancerous ownership, 2010 has been an annus horribilis from start to finish. 2011 is a whole new year. It can't possibly be worse, can it?