8:30am EST, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 11.03.07
1-0 Blackburn (a) 12.26.06
1-1 (h) 10.14.06
1-0 Liverpool (h) 04.16.06
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 4-2 Arse (h); 1-1 Arse (a); 1-1 Arse (a)
Blackburn: 1-1 Spurs (h); 0-0 Reading (a); 3-1 Wigan (h)
Liverpool: Torres 21; Gerrard 10; Babel 4; Benayoun, Crouch, Kuyt, Voronin 3; Alonso 2; Aurelio, Hyypia, Mascherano, Pennant, Sissoko 1
Blackburn: Santa Cruz 14; McCarthy 8; Bentley 6; Derbyshire, Gamst 3; Roberts, Samba, Tugay 2; Dunn, Emerton, Warnock 1
Referee: Alan Wiley
Guess at a squad:
Finnan Carragher Skrtel Riise
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
Was the formation on Tuesday a sign of things to come, including a possible partnership between Crouch and Torres, or just the tactics for that match against Arsenal?
Other than Mascherano’s suspension for an additional two games and Agger, Kewell, and Pennant injured, Liverpool should have a full-strength squad, and with six days until the next match, I doubt we’ll see much “rotation.” The chance for resting players should come in next Saturday’s match at Fulham.
Liverpool will almost certainly stay with the 4-2-3-1, which still hasn’t lost or drawn at Anfield.
As I alluded to on Wednesday, if Crouch were to continue in the 4-2-3-1, I’d hope Gerrard is on the right instead of left. I wouldn’t be shocked by a front four of Torres, Babel-Crouch-Gerrard, but it doesn’t seem like Rafa to shift the system around that much with nearly the full squad fit and available and nearly a week before the next match.
But given how hard Kuyt worked in the two European matches against Arsenal, the possibility of him being rested could make it more likely than I’m imagining. It also could see Benayoun get a start on the right. However, I would like to see Kuyt make amends for the late miss that could have won the game at Ewood Park in October, and I wouldn’t put it past him with the way he’s played of late.
In addition, while Christopher Samba has struggled at times this season, he’s a big, strong center back who’s quick enough to keep up with Crouch, and starting the gangly handful (you’re welcome, Ace) may play into Samba, and Blackburn’s, strengths.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Plessis get another run out either, but I’d imagine Lucas is still above him in the pecking order, and if it’s two from the three of Alonso, Lucas, and Plessis, chances are it’ll be the first two. Although Plessis did look more of a “holding midfielder” in the vein of Mascherano than either Lucas or Alonso.
Whoever starts at left back will have to keep close watch on David Bentley, who’s been Rovers’ best player this season along with Roque Santa Cruz. Aurelio played the full 90 minutes in two very difficult games in the last week, while Arbeloa is better at left back against players who cut inside. Bentley’s forte is getting crosses in the box. For this reason, and although he hasn’t had the best season, I’m guessing Riise to start. If Arbeloa plays, it’ll probably be at right back.
Tomorrow’s match will feature Stevie Warnock’s first return to Anfield since his move to Blackburn. Admittedly, I’ve always had a soft spot for Warnock (one of the two videos I’ve posted to YouTube that haven’t been taken down is Warnock’s lone goal for Liverpool), but going to Blackburn has suited both him and Liverpool well. I wish him all the best, but just after Sunday.
There’s always the chance of Liverpool underperforming following a Champions League match; it wouldn’t be the first time. And Blackburn is a team that’s frustrated Liverpool in the past, evidenced by the head-to-head record over the last four meetings. They are a physical team (granted, not as physical as in previous seasons, but still worth a mention) that’s well organized by Mark Hughes. But they’ve also disappointed at times, and should be higher than the 8th place they sit in, 9 points behind Everton and UEFA Cup qualification.
Liverpool cannot worry about the Champions League, with two games before the first leg against Chelsea. And they certain cannot worry about the back pages, which is why Hicks’ latest outburst is so infuriating; the man has zero concept of timing.
There are five games left in the league (Blackburn, Fulham, Brum, City, and Spurs), and Liverpool is only three points above 5th place. Only two of those games are at Anfield, and Liverpool need to take full advantage of them.