This preview was written yesterday, before the Suarez verdict. I thought about rewriting it. I still don't know what to say. Everyone's fumbling in the dark with just the FA's paltry statement to grasp onto, basing every opinion (and they are opinions) on their own biases (myself included). Until the FA releases its corresponding evidence, this ordeal seems more Franz Kafka's The Trial than "standard" football discipline. Two fingers, one in the eye of Liverpool, one in the eye of FIFA, in the hopes of political point scoring. I truly hope that isn't the case.
The only change I'd make to this preview is in regards to Suarez' starting. I honestly have no clue whether Dalglish will throw him into the fray. He's not suspended (yet), but only the manager knows if his mind's in the right place to play. Or whether Kuyt and/or Carroll will play because both will be needed if Suarez ends up missing eight games. But, again, no one but the club and the FA can answer these questions, and they've not been answered yet. Anyway...
3pm ET, live in the US on espn3. Or WatchESPN. Whatever it's called now. The online-only one, available only if your TV/internet providers aren't jerk-offs.
Incidentally, ESPN has the rights to three matches today: this, Villa v Arsenal, and Everton v Swansea. They are televising none, relegating all to the internet in favor of NFL Live, Dan LeBatard, and Jim Rome. Those lazy bums in Congress should pass a law preventing ESPN from bidding on "soccer" rights or something. I will not stop complaining about this and I apologize for nothing.
Last four head-to-head:
1-1 (h) 02.12.11
1-1 (a) 11.10.10
0-1 Wigan (a) 03.08.09
2-1 Liverpool (h) 08.24.09
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Villa (a); 1-0 QPR (h); 0-1 Fulham (a)
Wigan: 1-1 Chelsea (h); 2-1 West Brom (a); 0-4 Arsenal (h)
Liverpool: Suarez 5; Own Goal 3; Adam, Bellamy, Carroll, Skrtel 2; Gerrard, Henderson, Johnson, Maxi 1
Wigan: Di Santo, Gomez 4; Diame, Watson 2; Caldwell, Crusat, Moses 1
Referee: Michael Oliver
The youngest PL referee, Oliver's been in charge of just two Liverpool games: a 2008 Carling Cup win against Crewe and Dalglish's first league game back last season, a loss at Blackpool. I remember absolutely nothing about his performance in either and hope that's a good sign.
Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Downing Shelvey Maxi
Once again, I doubt there'll be many changes despite another away match 78 hours after the previous.
One likely switch seems to be someone in place of Bellamy, who played 87 minutes against Villa and who rarely starts consecutive matches, especially two in the space of a few days. Maxi, in a straight swap, seems the most likely replacement, but Dalglish could also bring Downing back to the left flank with Kuyt coming in on the right.
Shelvey, a surprise starter on Sunday, also seems less guaranteed than most. I'd like to see him given a second opportunity, but either Kuyt or Carroll could come into the side if Liverpool revert to the standard 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 formation. Again away from Anfield, that formation seems more probable than against Villa, with Liverpool likely to dictate terms and tempo to the home side. Similar to how Liverpool lined up at West Brom earlier this season, but obviously (sigh) without Lucas.
If Carroll plays, I'm increasingly convinced he needs to start. He's had next to no impact when featuring as a substitute, almost always struggling to adapt to the rhythm. Off the bench against Bolton, Stoke, Norwich, Chelsea, City, and Villa, the only match where Carroll came close to making a difference was against City, forcing Hart into a heroic win-denying save, but that was with Liverpool pushing furiously thanks to the man advantage. Not that Carroll's often impressed from the start either (sigh), but they've been vastly different degrees of "struggling."
Currently 18th, Wigan are coming off an encouraging draw against Chelsea, definitely deserving of their point. Roberto Martinez's biggest problem has been his side's scoring inaptitude – 15 through 16 matches, joint-lowest in the league (yes, yes, only five fewer than Liverpool). Historically reliant on Rodallega over the last few campaigns, the Colombian's disappointed so far, still scoreless and now doubtful after picking up a knock against Chelsea. Either Sammon or Di Santo has usually started in his stead.
Wigan used five at the back on Saturday (which inevitably became nine at the back), attempting to soak up Chelsea pressure before bringing on both Rodallega and Di Santo, leading to Gomez's equalizer when Cech fumbled Rodallega's fairly-routine shot. Looking far more secure than in the previous home match, an 0-4 loss to a rampant Arsenal, Martinez could replicate those tactics against Liverpool, forcing the away side to patiently break them down, as many others have done to Dalglish's men this season.
With one win in the last five against Wigan and without a win at the DW Stadium since September 2007, the Latics have become something of a bogey side. Both of last season's draws – 1-1 in each, under both Hodgson and Dalglish – came when Liverpool conceded a second half goal after scoring in the first. With similar results "earned" against Sunderland, United, and Norwich earlier this season, that remains a frightening possibility if Liverpool remains unable to put chances created to full use.