27 April 2007

Liverpool at Portsmouth 04.28.07

10am, available live in the US on Setanta.

Liverpool: 3rd place; 67 points out of 35 games
Portsmouth: 8th place; 50 points out of 35 games

Last 3 meetings:
0-0 (h) 11.29.06
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

Last 3 games:
Liverpool: 0-1 Chelsea (a); 2-0 Wigan (a); 2-0 Boro (h)
Portsmouth: 0-0 Villa (a); 2-1 Newcastle (h); 2-4 Watford (a)

Goalscorers (league; more than one goal):
Liverpool: Kuyt 12; Crouch 9; Bellamy, Gerrard 7; Alonso, Fowler, Garcia 3; Agger, Gonzalez 2
Portsmouth: Kanu 10; Taylor 8; Benjani 5; Cole 3; Lua Lua, Parmarot, Pedro Mendes, Primus, Todorov 2

Referee: Steve Bennett

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Hyypia Paletta Riise
Pennant Sissoko Mascherano Gonzalez
Bellamy Fowler

I obviously expect to see changes prior to Tuesday’s match, and the BBC is reporting that Gerrard, Carra, Finnan and Reina haven’t even traveled, and Alonso and Agger are unlikely to feature. If that’s the case, it’s a little surprising to see so many ruled out from the start, but not all that surprising given Rafa’s love of rotation and the importance of the Chelsea match. It also gives us a few clues as to who’ll start against Chelsea, and I have to say, I’m pleased on that front.

Hopefully Finnan is left out here just for the extra rest after this injury, and not because the neck injury is still bothering him. I’m not in the mood to rehash the bloody details, but suffice it to say, I truly hope he starts against Chelsea. Would have been nice to see him get some time tomorrow, whether starting or on the bench, to pick up some match fitness following his absence though.

With Pennant on the wing so important for Tuesday’s match, I’m up in the air over whether I think he’ll start here. Honestly, so much rotation has me a little confused, as usual. In theory, starting two games in 4 days shouldn’t be a big ask, but with Benitez, you never do know. But with Gerrard not traveling, I can’t see who else will play, although last year’s youth cup hot prospect Paul Anderson is in the squad.

There’s every chance in the world Zenden will start ahead of Mascherano, and I’m well aware of all the complaining I’ve done about the pairing of Momo and Masch, but after this week, I’m okay with not seeing Bolo for a while, even if the aforementioned pairing is more lacking offensively. Sorry.

Given all those left out of the traveling party and those unlikely to figure anyway, this will probably be one of Fowler’s last starts in a Liverpool shirt. With Gerrard and Carra out, chances are he’ll captain the side as well. Enjoy it. I reckon he’ll feature with Bellamy simply because Crouch and Kuyt are probably first choice versus Chelsea, and it’ll be interesting to see how the two will play together, especially if Bellamy is on his way out as well, as rumored.

You always want 3 points, every time out, but with Tuesday’s importance, a fair few players seemingly in need of a rest, and Champions League football for next season secure, I’m confident about and almost pleased with an under-strength. Portsmouth’s had a very good season by most people’s standards, let alone their performance over the past few seasons, and Fratton Park is never an easy place to play, especially with Pompey’s crowd. No disrespect meant, but Tuesday is clearly more important to the club, and additionally, I’m excited about possibly seeing players like Paletta and Anderson get first team football, as well as one of the last Fowler sightings.

Roll on Saturday

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