19 October 2007

Liverpool at Everton 10.20.07

7:45am EST, live in the US on Setanta Sports

Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 02.03.07
0-3 Everton (a) 09.09.06
3-1 Liverpool (h) 03.25.06
3-1 Liverpool (a) 12.18.05

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Spurs (h); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-0 Wigan (a)
Everton: 2-3 Newcastle (a); 3-2 Metalist (a); 2-0 Boro (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 4; Voronin 3; Alonso 2; Babel, Benayoun, Gerrard, Sissoko 1
Everton: Lescott 3; Osman 2; Anichebe, Johnson, McFadden, Pienaar, Stubbs, Yakubu 1

Referee: Mark Clattenburg

Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Hyypia Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Benayoun Riise
Kuyt Voronin

Hear me out.

I know that a Gerrard/Benayoun pairing seems very unlikely for a Benitez-led squad. But Alonso’s injured, and while he’s close to fitness, may not play. Mascherano played two World Cup qualifiers (!) in South America over the past week. And I don’t know how to feel about a Gerrard/Sissoko pairing, especially in a game with a tendency for ugliness regardless of the players involved.

Also, Spurs game aside, there were frequent and loud complaints about Liverpool’s incisiveness, passing, and general creativity in central midfield. Benayoun has the potential to remedy that. It’s probably pushing it to suggest that Benitez will go with this line-up, at Goodison of all places, but I think it’s what I want to see. I’m not 100% sure about Alonso’s fitness, but there’s still the chance he, or Mascherano or Sissoko, would be available off the bench if Liverpool did start Gerrard and Benayoun.

In the end, maybe I hope I’m wrong. Given that I think a lot of those who didn’t feature this past week -- Pennant, Sissoko, even Benayoun (who only played once, against Croatia) -- and Benitez’ conservatism, Momo will probably play, and I hope he has a barnstormer like the matches against Barcelona. But previous performances this season leave me understandably anxious.

I also still have concerns over Gerrard, mostly those voiced in the review of the England/Russia match. He hasn’t been at his best, and I doubt whether he’s been fully fit at all since the Chelsea match. But he’s still Liverpool’s captain and talisman, and like Carragher, always seems to be up for derbies (sometimes too up, as he was at Goodison two seasons ago). Liverpool assuredly needs Gerrard to start finding his best form.

From all I’ve read, Torres is 50/50 to play. It’s clear he wants to start, but with the injury occurring a week ago and the concerns over Everton just kicking him all over the park, the bench is probably the best place for him. Maybe Babel will start up top in his place -- I’m interested to see Babel play as a striker with recent performances on the wing seeming somewhat disjointed -- but like other experimentation, I don’t know if the derby’s the best time for the first run-out.

I’ve seen even less news about the hamstring problem that ruled Kuyt out of both of Holland’s Euro 08 qualifiers this past week, but like Torres and Alonso, he’s been in training, and if it’s possible, I imagine he’ll be risked before either Torres or Xabi. I wasn’t thrilled with the Kuyt/Voronin pairing against Birmingham, but this will be a different game, and out of the possibilities if Torres is injured, I think this is the best one.

Everton could be missing two of the most influential players from last year’s match at Goodison as well. Andy Johnson is undoubtedly out, while Cahill is close to a return from a metatarsal fracture of his own. Also, while it might be tempting fate to say, Everton’s shipped 5 goals in their last two games, against Newcastle and Metalist, as well.

I’ve literally been on pins and needles for this match all week. I don’t need to reiterate how Liverpool’s disappointed over the last few matches nor do I need to endlessly write about how important an Everton match is. Both are well known. If this match doesn’t rouse the team out of this depression, I don’t know what will.

Roll on Liverpool.

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