21 December 2007

Liverpool v Portsmouth 12.22.07

10am, live in the US on FSC

Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 09.15.07
1-2 Pompey (a) 04.28.07
0-0 (h) 11.29.06
3-1 Liverpool (a) 05.07.06

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-2 Chelsea (a); 0-1 United (h); 4-0 Marseille (a)
Pompey: 0-1 Spurs (h); 3-1 Villa (a); 0-0 Everton (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard, Torres 6; Babel, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso 2; Benayoun, Hyypia, Sissoko 1
Pompey: Benjani 8; Muntari 4; Kanu, Kranjcar, Utaka 3; Hreidarsson 2; Johnson, Parmarot, Taylor 1

Referee: Mike Riley

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Riise
Gerrard Alonso Mascherano Kewell
Kuyt Torres

If and only if Xabi’s ready after starting on Wednesday should he be on from the off Saturday. He may not be fully fit, but after putting in just 60 minutes against Chelsea, Benitez may feel he’s ready to do it again 3 days later, and we know how much the inclusion of Alonso improves the team. Otherwise, it’ll probably be Benayoun on the right with Gerrard and Mascherano in the middle.

But then again, we’ve seen a bit of 4-2-3-1 recently, and something like Alonso-Mascherano; Benayoun-Gerrard-Kewell; Torres wouldn’t be completely out of the blue either.

Ah, possibilities.

With players returning to fitness, it’s a guess of a similar squad to that against both Marseille and United; the only change would be Alonso for Benayoun. The full squad will definitely come into use for the amount of games over the festive period, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see more continuity in some of the line-ups either.

Aurelio for Riise could be another possible change, but with Fabio’s injury record and the fact he played the full 90 against Chelsea makes me skeptical. And as far as I know, Finnan’s still doubtful from the knock picked up against Marseille.

I may have seemed forgiving of losses to Reading, United, and Chelsea, but that won’t be the case here. If I don’t bandy around terms like “must win” against United at Anfield, I won’t be doing it for Pompey, but this is a game where Liverpool should get all three points.

Portsmouth is a tough team and has the best away record in the Premiership, having picked up 19 points from 9 games. They’re assuredly competing for a UEFA Cup spot, at worst probably the 8th best team in the league (and closer to sixth, honestly), and Benjani and Muntari, among others, are playing out of their skin this season.

There have been too many 0-0 results against Pompey of late, both home and away. Liverpool owes them one for the results last season and the one earlier this year at Fratton Park.

The next 4 games (Pompey, @ Derby, @ City, and Wigan) are exceptionally important for the rest of the Premier League campaign. Maximum points would go a long way towards making all the noises about the campaign not being over after the loss to United seem valid.

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