22 August 2008

Liverpool v Middlesbrough 08.23.08

10am, live in the US on Setanta.

Last 4 head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (h) 02.23.08
1-1 (a) 01.12.08
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.18.07
0-0 (a) 11.18.06

Last match:
Liverpool: 1-0 Sunderland (a)
Middlesbrough: 2-1 Spurs (h)

Referee: Mike Riley

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Dossena
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Benayoun

Yes, I know, except for Agger, this would be the same line-up that struggled at Sunderland.

If Lucas and Mascherano were available, I’d guess different. But with those two missing from central midfield, Pennant seemingly cast aside, and Babel probably not ready to start, I don’t see many options.

Admittedly, this is more what I expect to see rather than want to see.

Not even considering Kuyt or Benayoun (it’s not like Liverpool is stacked with options on the flanks, especially if they play with 2 strikers), the one change I’d be tempted to make would be Carra at right back with Agger and Skrtel in the center, if Skrtel’s fit enough. Alvaro disappointed last time out, while Agger and Skrtel have the potential to be Liverpool’s central pairing for the next decade. And Carragher can certainly do a job on the right, although admittedly, you’re not going to get a lot from a right flank of Carra and Dirk in Boro's final third. But Liverpool should still be able to cope.

Any other changes would probably be because of midweek international friendlies, with Benayoun maybe making way for Aurelio, but since most of Liverpool’s first-teamers were in action on Wednesday, I’ve no idea.

Babel returned to Anfield earlier in the week, and while I expect (hope?) he at least makes the bench, I imagine the time difference and lack of preseason preparation will preclude him from starting. But to be honest, Babel was at his best last season coming off the bench anyway. Part of the development we hope to see this season is improvement when he starts, but I think it’ll be a process, just like bedding him into the first team was last season.

Even though Spurs were fairly impotent (like in their first match last season), Boro was impressive a week ago with a 2-1 win at the Riverside. Southgate promised to attack in comments before the match, and attack Boro did, with goals from Wheater and Mido, and Afonso Alves also looking lively.

Spurs may have had more possession, but Boro was good on the counter, and far more lethal than their opponents. Which sounds like how Liverpool games are prone to playing out at times. Liverpool doesn’t have any defenders like Michael Dawson (thankfully), but they can be exposed on the break, and usually have more possession than their opponents even if they’re struggling for shots. That’s part of the reason I suggested Carra as right back earlier in this preview.

Downing has been linked with Liverpool recently. I don’t really put much weight in that, because even if Benitez did want him, I doubt Boro’s selling (and I really doubt they’re selling to Liverpool after the Ziege incident). Downing is Boro’s best player though, and was excellent at Anfield last season. But I believe a flank of Kuyt and Carragher (or Kuyt and Arbeloa for that matter) can keep him quiet, or at least push him centrally where he’ll have far less time and space.

Liverpool have to show more cutting edge and far more incisiveness in the final third in their Anfield debut than they did at the Stadium of Light last weekend. It’s also troublesome coming back from an international break. Torres played over an hour for Spain while Alonso played the second half and Reina got a 15 minute run-out, Gerrard got an hour for England, Kuyt was a sub for the Netherlands, Dossena played the second half against Austria, and Agger, Keane and Benayoun played the full 90 for their countries.

The team (well, Torres) did well to eke a tough win at Sunderland last Saturday, which gave Liverpool the three points to start the season the right way. They have to build on that in their first match at Fortress Anfield.


Abhiram said...

We need to wait for Mascherano to come play DM for us before we see Dossena playing more freely and attacking more. I think Benitez is thinking on these lines. Our squad for tomorrow's match against 'Boro will be just an imitation of our squad for the whole season. If we are able to get some good passes from our full-backs we can actually play 3 CMs and 3 Attackers in the
4 - 3 - 3
formation. In this way, our defense will not be compromised and we get to use the creative skills of Alonso and Gerrard ( along with Lucas) in a better way.

Abhiram said...

I wanted your comments on this formation.




The great advantage of this system would be that we could attack from all directions provided our full-backs gave us good width. The downside would be Keane and Torres interfering in each others chances and spilling it like the last game.

But we have awesome opportunity to attack and make use of creative genius of Gerrard and Alonso without losing our defensive edge.

We can also substitute Keane,Torres and Babel whenever required or not required with Kuyt, Bennayoun, Ngog and possibly Nemeth and Pacheco. We also have Plessis Mascher in the midfield.

Mike Georger said...

i really like that formation. im a big proponent of gerrard on the right, as i always point out thats where he was when we had our highest league point haul ever, even though i hated it at the time. i think the torres/keane getting in the way thing was a fluke, and torres would probably push a bit further up

congrats to the little chief on the gold. dont think its to be discounted that three of our best players have played huge roles in titles this summer, as they say winning is contagious. granted i never paid much attention in health class so what do i know.

Mike Georger said...

ugh i cant get any streams working. but ive got eseason ticket so im listening to the radio broadcast, which is always fun because they get so excited.
sounds like keane and torres are linking well and that arbeloa is dying alive

heheheh the word verification is 'vag'. silly blogspot

Mike Georger said...


if you need me, ill be the guy slamming his junk in a car door for the next six hours

Mike Georger said...

sure wish i could have been watching that but the radio call for those goals surely was better than the setanta guys. man.

still a horrid 80 minutes and rafa needs to do something on the wings. cant really knock babel as he has been away from the team and hurt before that, so i think he will need a game or two

fucking legendary ass saving performances from carra and stevie though. as steve hunter said, this is the kind of result united have been getting for years. im spent.

Mike Georger said...

just saw the goal. absolutely perfect execution.

great drop pass by el zhar (ive been in love with this kid since we signed him and im hoping he may be making the push now), spot on long ball by alonso (impressive considering he was having a terrible half), nice assist by keane and just a smashing finish by stevie. kind of a flipped around olympiacos goal