21 May 2011

Liverpool at Aston Villa 05.22.11

11am ET, live in the US only on espn3.com. It's not delayed on either FSC or FS+ as far as I can tell either. Here's hoping for better streams – espn3 makes my computer crawl even slower than usual.

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.06.10
1-0 Liverpool (a) 12.29.09
1-3 Villa (h) 08.24.09
5-0 Liverpool (h) 03.22.09

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-2 Spurs (h); 5-2 Fulham (a); 3-0 Newcastle (h)
Villa: 2-1 Arsenal (a); 1-1 Wigan (h); 1-2 West Brom (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Kuyt 13; Maxi 10; Meireles 5; Gerrard, Suarez 4; Carroll, Cole, Johnson, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Skrtel 2
Villa: Bent 9; A Young 7; Downing 6; Albrighton 5; Agbonlahor, Clark, Collins, Heskey 3; Delfouneso, Petrov, Walker, L Young 1

Referee: Lee Probert

Guess at a line-up:
Reina
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Flanagan
Kuyt Lucas Spearing Meireles
Suarez Carroll

The bell finally tolls for 2010-11.

With Meireles back in training, Liverpool have two spots to be filled by three possibilities.

One of Carroll, Meireles, or Maxi will be on the bench. If Liverpool had secured 5th place on Sunday, we could have seen the likes of Shelvey involved from the start. Even though qualification's now in Tottenham's hands, Liverpool would make the Europa League by bettering Spurs' result; a full-strength XI seems mandatory.

Concerns about how Carroll fits into Liverpool's playing style have been dissected in great detail this week. Meireles might be available, but might not be fit enough to start. And Maxi came into the side when Liverpool's #9 picked up the knee injury; the Argentinean notched hat-tricks against Brum and Fulham, but could still start on the bench with Meireles on the left and Carroll up front  – as against Manchester City. My guess is Maxi will be the one left out, mostly because the other two are far more likely to have bigger roles next season, but none of the options would surprise.

Aurelio could also return in place of Flanagan, but the young fullback's barely put a foot wrong; I highly doubt he'll be dropped in the last game. Ashley Young on the left is a bigger threat than Downing on the right, which is why I expect Johnson at right-back, but the opposite could also be the case: Young frequently cuts in while Downing likes to stay wide and whip in crosses.

Villa played 4-2-3-1 in their last match, a 2-1 away win at Arsenal, with Delph, Downing, and Young behind Bent. Prior to that, stand-in manager McAllister primarily used 4-4-2, with Agbonlahor or Heskey partnering Bent. The former formation seems a better possibility with Liverpool's recent improvement (Spurs match not withstanding), but either way, Young and Downing will be the main threats on the flanks, while Carragher and Skrtel will need to be wary of Bent's ability on the counter. Agbonlahor's pace has troubled Carra in the past, but the striker's been a shadow of himself for most of the season. Unlike Liverpool, Aston Villa have no injury concerns.

After last Sunday, Liverpool can only take care of itself. But whether the club finishes fifth or sixth, the latter half of the season has been an astronomical improvement, bringing much-needed positivity and optimism for the first time in a long time. Liverpool need to end the season on the best possible note – away from Anfield, where the team's struggles have been most pronounced, would make it even better – or failure in the final two games will weigh heavy on the minds during the undoubtedly busy off-season.

1 comment:

Ash said...

I think Downing is more dangerous than Young