28 November 2006

Liverpool v Portsmouth 11.29.06

3pm. Available in the US live on Setanta Xtra (DirecTV only). Replayed on Setanta Sports at 5 and 11pm.

Liverpool: 9th place; 21 points out of 14 games
Portsmouth: 4th place; 23 points out of 14 games

Last 4 meetings:
3-1 Liverpool (a) 05.07.06
2-1 Liverpool (a; FA Cup 4th round) 01.29.06
3-0 Liverpool (h) 11.19.05
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.20.05

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 1-0 Man City (h); 2-0 PSV (h); 0-0 Boro (a)
Portsmouth: 0-1 Newcastle (a); 2-1 Watford (h); 1-1 Fulham (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Kuyt 5; Crouch 2; Agger, Alonso, Bellamy, Fowler, Garcia, Gerrard, Gonzalez, Riise 1
Portsmouth: Kanu 8; Benjani 3; Cole, LuaLua, Todorov 2; Pedro Mendes 1

Referee: Alan Wiley

Probable squad:
Finnan, Hyypia, Agger, Riise
Pennant, Gerrard, Garcia
Kuyt, Crouch

In addition to Alonso out for another week, and Sissoko out into the New Year, Zenden’s now also out for around six weeks with a knee injury. Not the same knee injury that saw him miss the majority of last season, mind you. Meaning Gerrard’s the sole central midfielder (okay, let’s not open that can of worms again) in the first team fully fit. Hot gossip is that Liverpool will start Carra in the holding role, similar to what Sven Goran Eriksson (ugh) asked of him during the run up to the World Cup.

I would prefer to see either Agger or Danny Guthrie in midfield. Agger seems more suited to the role of a holding midfielder, with his ability to bring the ball out of defense, his distribution, and his wicked left foot shot. But Carra’s been in the position before, and has experience galore as a utility player, which is why I reckon he’ll be picked. Even more though, I would rather see Liverpool play its center backs as center backs, and bring in Guthrie, who is a natural central midfielder.

For those who don’t know, Guthrie’s a 19-year-old Academy graduate. Became a regular in the reserve team last season, now frequently captains them. He made his debut as a sub in the Carling Cup match against Reading, and also came on in the next round at Birmingham. It’s been awhile since an Academy player broke into the first team, especially when you consider the success in the 90s bringing through Fowler, Owen and Gerrard. I am still hoping to see Paul Anderson, Adam Hamill, and Guthrie get time in the first team this year. Seems as if an injury crisis such as this would be the perfect time to blood a youth player.

Portsmouth have injury problems of their own at present, with Dejan Stankovic, Matt Taylor, Glen Johnson all out, LuaLua and Sean Davis possibly out, and talk of Andy Griffin being recalled from his loan at Stoke. They are also somewhat of a paper tiger in regards to their league placement; their only win against a top 10 side is home against Reading.

Despite the injuries and lack of central midfielders (and a natural left winger), I still imagine Liverpool will come out looking to take the game to Portsmouth. As I mentioned in the Man City review, it is imperative for Liverpool to score the first goal, and hopefully score it sooner rather than later, as the first goal usually settles the team down well. Not to mention Portsmouth will have a difficult time pulling goals back at Anfield.

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