17 November 2006

Liverpool at Middlesbrough 11.18.06

12:15pm. Available in the US on Fox Soccer Channel.

Liverpool: 9th place; 17 points out of 12 games
Middlesbrough: 13th place; 14 points out of 12 games

Last 4 meetings:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 12.10.05
0-0 (a) 08.13.05
1-1 (h) 04.30.05
0-2 Boro (a) 11.20.04

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 0-3 Arsenal (a); Birmingham 1-0 (a); Reading 2-0 (h)
Middlesbrough: 1-0 West Ham (h); 0-2 Watford (a); 0-1 Man City (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Kuyt 5; Crouch 2; Agger, Alonso, Bellamy, Fowler, Garcia, Gonzalez, Riise 1
Middlesbrough: Yakubu 4; Viduka 2; Downing, Maccarone, Morrison, Pogatetz 1

Referee: Lee Mason

The squad I’d like to see:
Finnan, Carragher, Agger, Warnock
Garcia, Gerrard, Alonso, Riise
Kuyt, Bellamy

I think everyone’s going to get their wish, and as I said last weekend, Steven Gerrard seems likely to start in the center. The press has already begun the celebrations, and I believe there will be a parade through London Sunday to commemorate the event.

Playing Gerrard in the center tomorrow makes sense, much more so than in the last game. Middlesbrough is nowhere near as dangerous as Arsenal through the middle, will probably play a 4-5-1 formation with only Yakubu up top, and derives most of its attack from Downing and Morrison on the flanks. Unlike against teams like say, Arsenal, I don’t think Middlesbrough will be able to exploit the gaps in the middle that Stevie will leave when he pushes forward or roams in a freer role, as he is wont to do; the same gaps that Sissoko is usually in there to seal.

As much as I cheerlead for the Kuyt/Crouch pairing, I think this is a perfect opportunity for Bellamy to get a start and further boost his confidence. He played very well and got a goal during Wales’ midweek game, and will be looking to continue that form. His speed and intelligent runs should cause bags of problems for Woodgate and Huth in Boro’s back line, and on paper, a partnership between Bellamy and Kuyt should disturb that defense all day long.

It’s time for Liverpool to get back on track, and prove that they can win away from Anfield. They couldn’t have asked for a better fixture in which to do so. The Riverside hasn’t been the best venue for Liverpool, with no goals there since 2002, but inconsistency has been the rule for Boro so far this season. With the talent in the squad, and with the need to prove a point, Liverpool should be able to take advantage of their weaknesses, and hopefully go some way in ending the negativity surrounding the team.

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