08 November 2006

Liverpool at Birmingham 11.08.06

4th round of the Carling Cup. 3pm Wednesday. Available in the US on Setanta Sports

Birmingham currently sits 4th in the Championship.

Carling Cup results:
Liverpool: 4-3 Reading (h)
Birmingham: 4-2 Sheffield Utd (a); 4-1 Wrexham (h); 1-0 Shrewsbury Town (h)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Reading (h); 3-0 Bordeaux (h); 3-1 Villa (h)
Birmingham: 1-0 Plymouth (a); 1-0 Coventry (a); 2-0 West Brom (h)

Squad list, according to the BBC:
Liverpool (from): Dudek, Finnan, Peltier, Carragher, Agger, Paletta, Aurelio, Gerrard, Alonso, Sissoko, Bellamy, Fowler, Kuyt, Crouch, Gonzalez, Warnock, Zenden, Martin, Pennant, Alonso.

Guess of a lineup:
Peltier Carragher Agger Warnock
Gerrard Sissoko Alonso Gonzalez
Kuyt Crouch

Once again, I’m clueless as to whether Benitez will give the kids/reserves another Carling Cup opportunity, or if he’ll use this game as a chance to further settle the first team before Sunday’s game at Arsenal. I’d like to think that he’ll stick to his guns and continue to use the earlier rounds of the tournament to give experience to youngsters and to rest star players, but I’m far less sure than in the last round.

After starting to find their feet while on a 4 game home stand, Liverpool travels to St Andrews to start 3 matches away from home. It is absolutely imperative that Liverpool translates their excellent home form to the road. Only after this extended away trip will we know how capable this team really is, as Liverpool under Benitez has consistently been good at Anfield.

I don’t know whether to be pleased that this is the first match of the away games. On the one hand, it should be easier to replicate their form on a lesser stage, in a League Cup match, against a lower division side. However, does it really count if Rafa chops and changes, and the team sent out to face Birmingham is similar to the team that faced Reading in the last round?

No matter whom Rafa rotates in or out, I want to continue to see the pairing of Crouch and Kuyt up top. Fowler does deserve to play, and only Ian Rush has scored more League Cup goals than Robbie. But the pairing of Kuyt and Crouch has almost shown too much promise. No matter the health of Bellamy or Fowler, and no matter whom Liverpool is up against, I want to see Kuyt and Crouch start every game if they’re available. I really do think the pairing has that much promise.

Birmingham is on a run themselves of late. After a tricky start to the season, where manager Steve Bruce was again under fire (as he was at the end of last season), Birmingham has won 5 in a row. They will be looking not only to continue that streak, but to also claim another Premier League scalp (after beating Sheffield United in the last round) and make amends for last season’s FA Cup debacle against Liverpool. The Carling Cup is pretty low on my list of priorities for this season, but Liverpool has an opportunity to continue to cement their good run and to prove to some doubters that they are capable of playing the soccer we expect from Liverpool away from Anfield.

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