18 February 2008

Liverpool v Inter Milan 2.19.07

2:45pm on espn2

Inter is currently 1st in Serie A

Group Stage:
Liverpool: 4-0 Marseille (a); 4-1 Porto (h); 8-0 Besiktas (h); 1-2 Besiktas (a); 0-1 Marseille (h); 1-1 Porto (a)
Inter: 1-0 PSV (a); 3-0 Fenerbahce (h); 4-2 CSKA (h); 2-1 CSKA (a); 2-0 PSV (h); 0-1 Fenerbahce (a)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Barnsley (h); 0-0 Chelsea (a); 3-0 Sunderland (h)
Inter: 2-0 Livorno (h); 2-0 Catania (a); 1-0 Empoli (h)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Crouch, Gerrard, Kuyt 4; Babel, Benayoun, Torres 3; Hyypia, Voronin 1
Inter: Ibrahamovic 5, Cambiasso, Cruz 2; Crespo, Jimenez, Samuel 1

Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)

Guess at a squad
Finnan Skrtel Carragher Arbeloa
Pennant Gerrard Mascherano Benayoun
Crouch Torres

I still can’t decide whether it will be Crouch or Kuyt up top. Kuyt finally broke his goal drought on Saturday and has improved in the last two games, while Crouch is one of Liverpool’s joint top-scorers in Europe, although the last two games he’s started have been nothing to write home about (to put it in the nicest way possible).

There’s also a chance for something like 4-2-3-1, with Gerrard, Benayoun, and Babel (or some similar combination) behind Torres as a lone striker.

That Babel was taken off on Saturday with 20 minutes to go makes me wonder if he’ll see another start on Tuesday, but it was probably more a precautionary measure, as I think he’s still dealing with an ankle knock picked up on international duty.

Also, both Pennant and Benayoun have more experience in Europe; Pennant frequently plays well when Crouch is involved, while Benayoun’s gotten goals from midfield and shown a willingness to get in the box, and has frequently been Liverpool’s best player in matches where his goals have been needed.

I’m hoping that both Skrtel and Arbeloa are fit for this one. According to Benitez there’s no new injury worries and both Torres and Skrtel have recovered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Benitez has enough faith to start them all.

The backline that saw so many clean sheets in Benitez’s first two seasons (Finnan-Carra-Hyypia-Riise) -- the one deployed on Saturday -- has been Liverpool’s shakiest this season. I don’t know whether its age catching up with certain players (although none of those four have ever been reliant on pace) or just a matter of all being off-form at times this season (although Hyypia’s turned back the clock with some of his performances), but it’s been a problem.

However, injuries may force Liverpool’s hand. Plus, if memory serves, Riise’s only missed one Champions League knockout game under Benitez, the home leg against Benfica in 2006.

For Inter, first-string keeper Julio Cesar is suspended, while Dacourt and Samuel are both injured. 11 points clear at the top of Serie A, their lone loss this season came away to Fenerbahce in the first Champions League group game.

It goes without saying that this has become the most important game of the season so far, with rumors flying that Benitez’s job is now (again?) linked to Champions League progress. I’ve no desire to rehash that debate again, but I still believe it's an unfair ask.

But it shows the disappointment that this season’s been. The squad may be better from top to bottom, but results haven’t been. An exit from Europe would mean that the fight for fourth is the only thing left this season. That’s unimaginable.

Quotes from Inter manager Roberto Mancini show that no matter Liverpool’s current struggles, the team is still a feared force in Europe. Liverpool’s come together before to beat more fancied opposition. Believe me, this isn’t counting the chickens before they’re hatched, but a win at Anfield coupled with the business done in Italy could turn the ship around.

We hear so much about Liverpool as a different team in Europe. On current form, they’ll assuredly have to be.


iskoppa said...

Hi nate, been a tad busy of late! Due to all sorts of reasons, but I have been reading your blog every day! Sorted geezer, spot on! Tomorrows game is about all we have left, apart from the up hill struggle for 4th place! Thay say the impossible can be handled, miracles take a little longer! So lets hope and pray then.The men in Red need to pull there socks up, and produce a "European Night" otherwise I fear it won't be just DMW out the door at the end of the season!LFCFL-SoS-IKB-SYOTOS.

Mike Georger said...

this team is more than capable of beating inter especially if torres is fit and skrtel or agger manage to play. idk why europe seems to bring out the best in them but noone saw them beating barca away last season and that was a turning point in my opinion for the whole season, tomorrow could be the same. the trophy possibilities are minimal but there is still a shit ton of pride to play for and right now that is more important than anything.

that being said ... champions league, knockout stage, here we come.

Mike Georger said...

"Javier Mascherano is "ready to die" in order help his side to victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday."

epic. future captain.

im skipping class for the game which i probably shouldnt be doing but a man has to have priorities in life

Steel said...

Like mike, I've - ahem - "arranged" my schedule to ensure I'm in front of the game this afternoon.

Come on you Reds!

Mike Georger said...

Finnan, Aurelio, Carragher, Hyypia
Mascherano, Lucas, Gerrard, Babel Torres, Kuyt.
Subs: Itandje, Riise, Benayoun, Arbeloa, Pennant, Alonso, Crouch.

love the newfound commitment to lucas, i will be interested to see the actual formation. would prefer stevie on the right and masche and lucas in the middle, babel left.
likely it will be masche behind, kuyt on the right . ugh

nate said...

"likely it will be masche behind, kuyt on the right . ugh"

my guess is this is correct. similar to chelsea, only with torres in place of crouch.

Mike Georger said...

i mean MAYBE it wasnt a coincidence that we had 82 points in a season that saw gerrard out right most of the year

nonono surely this is crazy talk

Mike Georger said...

i dont think either of those fouls were worthy of cards but considering who it was committing them, fuck him.

yossi for lucas, not for the latter performing poorly but rather because the former can make the runs that will exploit the man advantage.

and fabio ... omg get insua in the first team next epl game

Mike Georger said...

i cant believe that viera handball. it hit both hands. absurd.

Mike Georger said...

it had the feeling of just such a negative performance, that surely would have been the death knell for the year. but good god.

lots of things you could criticize involved in this game but right now it doesnt fucking matter, pennant, dirk, and jesus our fucking savior christ came up huge. his goal has to rank up there with some of his best imo.

have three weeks to get our back line healthy. lets do this shit.

Mike Georger said...

"thou art, gerrard"

Steel said...

Nice to see the back of Materazzi, although the ref's willingness to card him didn't nearly make up for the missed handballs (and resulting penalties?) by Vieira and Ibrahimovic.

Well deserved. Pennant is surely Rafa's secret European weapon.

Mike Georger said...

btw what a performance by the little chief. i really dont think there is anyone in the world he cant shut down, just dumbfounding how good he is. his passing has improved greatly this season as well. looking forward to a decade of him rocking everyones ass