21 November 2006

Liverpool v PSV 11.22.2006

2:45pm. Available in the US on Setanta Sports.

Liverpool drew PSV in their group game in Eindhoven on September 12th. PSV currently sits 1st in the Dutch Eredivisie.

Champions League Group Stage results:
Liverpool: 3-0 Bordeaux (h); 1-0 Bordeaux (a); 3-2 Galatasaray (h); 0-0 PSV (a)
PSV: 2-1 Galatasaray (h); 2-1 Galatasaray (a); 1-0 Bordeaux (a); 0-0 Liverpool (h)

Goals leaders (Europe):
Liverpool: Crouch 4; Garcia 3; Bellamy, Gerrard, Gonzalez 1
PSV: Koné 2; Kromkamp, Simons, Väyrynen 1

European History:
Liverpool: European Cup/Champions League 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976, 2001; UEFA Super Cup 1977, 2001, 2005
PSV: European Cup/Champions League 1988; UEFA Cup 1978

Referee: Domenico Messina (ITA)

Key players for PSV:
Jefferson Farfan: Peruvian striker who is the top scorer for PSV so far this season, and one of the most prolific strikers in the Eredivisie. Both he and Arouna Koné are dangerously fast forwards who have the ability to punish any defensive mistakes that Liverpool makes.
Phillip Cocu: Cocu is probably the most recognized name on PSV’s teamsheet. The midfielder both starred for the Holland national team and played for Barcelona from ’98-04. Cocu missed the last game against Liverpool, but is expected to return tomorrow, and despite his age (recently turned 36), still makes PSV tick.
Jan Kromkamp: This group has been interesting as it’s seen both Vladi Smicer and recently-transferred Jan Kromkamp return to Anfield. I still think with more time Jan would have settled into the PL and made a decent squad player, unlike some who seemed to actively cheer his exit. However, he’s much more suited to the Dutch league, and has looked far better for PSV than he did at any time last season, even popping up with a goal in PSV’s last Champions League game.

My guess of a lineup:
Finnan Carragher Agger Warnock
Pennant Gerrard Alonso Riise
Crouch Kuyt

Liverpool and PSV have both qualified out of the group already. Both sides have made the usual noises about wanting to finish first and control their own destiny, but it’s always hard to tell how much that means. Of course both will want to win (duh), but more priority will be put on resting players and avoiding suspensions and injuries than if all was still to be decided.

A return to Anfield after three questionable games also brings the squad rotation back into question. We’ve all agreed, Liverpool’s far better at home, and that might come into the equation in giving certain players a rest. For example, Garcia returns from a niggling hamstring injury, and he could go into the squad, as Little Luis loves European nights and given the play from the flanks recently, but it’s more likely he’s feature as a sub.

However, we’ll still probably see (and I hope to see) a mostly full-strength line-up. Liverpool’s still too inconsistent, and the key players need to get a consistent run of games. It’s the best hope of improvement.

I fear to imagine the backlash if Crouch doesn’t start. Now that the press has decided that moving Stevie into the middle isn’t the answer, the next target will be Rafa’s rotation of the forward line. Crouch’s impact at the end of the Middlesbrough game clearly set the stage for this, and while the BBC’s preview claims that Bellamy’s in line for a start, I’d be surprised to not see Crouch and Kuyt paired up top, which was the preferred pairing for the streak of home wins Liverpool went on a few weeks back.

Additionally, while I love John Arne Riise, he’s one of my favorite characters on the team, he’s been skinned far too often, and it’s become obvious Liverpool needs to defend better on the wings. Riise offers far too much to be left on the bench, but this is the reason I’ve included Stevie Warnock in my proposed lineups the last couple of times out. Warnock’s reportedly one of the best tacklers and the toughest players in practice, and I’d like to see him get a run out.

Liverpool needs to reassert itself here. The loss at Arsenal and draw at Boro went a long way towards canceling out the run of five wins that Liverpool went on. Now that Liverpool's back at Anfield for a spell (v PSV, Man City, and Portsmouth), it's time to reestablish the form that had many forgetting about the questionable start to the season and build from there.

No comments :