30 October 2007

Liverpool v Cardiff City 10.31.07

4pm EST, not available on TV in the US

Liverpool hasn’t faced Cardiff City since 1959, in the old Second Division.

Previous Carling Cup matches:
Liverpool: 4-2 Reading (a)
Cardiff: 4-2 West Brom (a); 1-0 Leyton Orient (h); 1-0 aet Brighton (h)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Arsenal (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 2-1 Everton (a)
Cardiff: 1-1 Scunthorpe (h); 2-3 Wolverhampton (h); 0-1 Southampton (a)

Goalscorers (Carling Cup):
Liverpool: Torres 3; Benayoun 1
Cardiff: Fowler 2; Hasselbaink, Johnson, Sinclair, Wittingham 1

Referee: Peter Walton

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hobbs Aurelio
Benayoun Lucas Sissoko Leto
Crouch Babel

The big story surrounding the game is Robbie Fowler's return to Anfield, but focus will also be on the strength of Liverpool's squad and who plays with the injuries currently facing the club. The "second team" must play well in case they're needed during the next month, when Liverpool's squad will be stretched thin.

I'm expecting mostly reserves tomorrow, but remember the strength of the team against Reading. However, there's more of a problem with injuries, the first-team defense all looks like they could use a rest (Carragher as well, but Liverpool will need his experience tomorrow, especially if Gerrard doesn't play), and no slight to Cardiff City, but Reading's a Premiership team and the game was at their ground.

It's probably too soon for the likes of Putterill, Spearing, and other graduates of the Academy. In addition, while I'd love to see Insua start at left back (even though we've rarely seen him this season, I'm still expecting big things), Aurelio is getting close to fitness and in need of playing time.

With Alonso suffering another injury to his metatarsal (as of writing this, I still haven't seen any word on the scan) it seems like Lucas and Sissoko have to start in the middle. I realize Gerrard is very rarely left out, but both Lucas and Sissoko will be called upon over the next month, and I'd like to see them get first-team action and play together as a pairing. And given the weakened state of Liverpool's squad and the amount of important games to come, I'll be very surprised if Gerrard features at all, either in the center or on the right.

I've said it for three straight previews now, but this has to be a game for Crouch with the injury to Torres and the amount of action that Kuyt and Voronin have seen lately. While he's been the 4th striker all season long, I'm still surprised at his lack of opportunities. And while he didn't get that much-needed goal, I was encouraged by his performance on Sunday.

And I'd like to see Babel partner Crouchy up top. Babel's seemingly seen less action as the season's gone on, mainly because he hasn't completely settled on the wing, but when he's played he's looked more threatening coming through the center, and playing as a striker (and playing well) could do wonders for his confidence.

Like against both Toulouse and Reading, I imagine Leto will receive another first-team start, but I'm also wondering if Kewell is fit enough for a run out. We've been hearing more about Kewell of late, and he played 45 minutes for the reserves on Thursday. I still think Leto will start, with Kewell off the bench around the hour mark, but I also wouldn't be surprised or upset if Kewell started on the right, as we know he can play on both flanks.

Despite the amount of money spent over the summer, bringing in Fowler, Trevor Sinclair, and Stephen McPhail, among others, Cardiff's not had the best results so far this season. Currently, they're lingering above the relegation places in 17th, and have won once in their last six games. Concerns over the club's finances still loom large as well. In other squad news, on-loan keeper Kasper Schmeichel won't start because Manchester City doesn't want him cup-tied.

The Carling Cup is still a distant fourth on Liverpool's list of priorities. The strength of the squad that turned out against Reading led me to believe that Liverpool would do their utmost to compete in all four tournaments, but with injuries and the troubles in the Champions League, I wonder if that strategy has changed at all.

If I’m being honest, I wouldn't be devastated if Liverpool were to go out against Cardiff. Naturally, I want Liverpool to win every game they compete in, but the Carling Cup could end up a distraction.

The most important thing for the team tomorrow is to get a good performance that builds on the confidence gained from a respectable draw against Arsenal, and for the reserves and youth players to get a decent run in the first team to show what they're capable of if Liverpool needs them.

No comments :