30 September 2008

Liverpool v PSV Eindhoven 10.01.08

2:45pm, live in the US on espn2

Group stage so far:
Liverpool: 2-1 Marseille (a)
PSV: 0-3 Atlético (h)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Everton (a); 2-1 Crewe (h); 0-0 Stoke (h)
PSV: 1-0 Volendam (h); 3-0 Jong PSV (a); 0-1 AZ Alkmaar (a)

Referee: Felix Brych (GER)

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Mascherano Alonso
Kuyt Gerrard Babel

Does Benitez have a Champions League squad and a Premier League squad?

We saw the 4-2-3-1 against Marseille, but that could have been because Liverpool was away. At home, maybe Benitez will stick with the 4-4-2 he’s used in the league and that looked better against United and Everton (let’s all agree that Stoke didn’t happen). But I’ve a sneaking suspicion we haven’t seen the last of the 4-2-3-1.

Also, I’d be somewhat surprised if Liverpool lined up against Dutch opposition without Kuyt and Babel.

So, I’m guessing that Liverpool will pretty much deploy the same line-up that went out against Marseille, with only Alonso in for Lucas, Aurelio for Dossena, and Agger for Skrtel. Of course, that would mean Keane would miss out again, which doesn’t really seem likely, especially after he and Torres finally linked up for a goal last Saturday. But I still don’t see where he fits in the 4-2-3-1.

I expect to see Aurelio over Dossena now that Fabio was fit enough for an appearance off the bench on Saturday. I’m far less positive about Agger – that’s pretty much just a hunch – and I reiterate, Benitez does seem hesitant to rotate at center back if he can avoid it.

Benitez announced that both Mascherano and Benayoun are back in the squad after missing the weekend through injury. Maybe this means that Masch might be limited to an appearance off the bench, with Lucas again starting in the CL, but any time Masch is available, I struggle leaving him out of my guess at a squad.

It’s a different PSV team than Liverpool faced in 2007, but they’re still the reigning Dutch champions four years running. Ibrahim Afellay, the highly-rated youngster, is a doubt for the match because of a toe injury sustained in training last week. Nordin Amrabat is another quick youngster who could cause problems; the right-winger has earned a fair bit of praise in his first season at PSV.

Atletico shellacked PSV in Eindhoven in the first group match, losing 3-0, with Aguero torching the Dutch for the hour he was on the pitch. But while the loss may show some weaknesses in the side, PSV will assuredly want to pick up some much needed points before their two CL matches against Marseille.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are in position to get six points from six to start the group stage, in contrast to last season’s one point from the first three matches. Aside from that blip two weekends past, the team is rounding into shape, and I’m most pleased to see goals from Torres reappear. More of the same on Wednesday, please.


Abhiram said...

Hey Nate, why do you like the 4-2-3-1 formation so much? I love this formation too but its a little defensive when we play at home. I agree this is not the premiership and its the champions league but we should attack more at home and the 4-4-2 formation is more attacking oriented.

Having said that, the dilemma is who to select for the 2 CM positions? Gerrard of-course and Alonso or Mascher. I hate to decide between Mascher and Alonso as both are playing awesome.

Hey come to think of it, thats possibly the reason you are hoping for the 4-2-3-1 formation :).

nate said...

Mainly for the reasons listed in the Everton preview last week.

But I don't think the formation is necessarily too defensive, even at home. At worst, Liverpool's attacking with four players - Torres, Gerrard, and some combination of Babel, Benayoun, Riera and Kuyt. And, Alonso/Lucas can get forward a bit (although less than the 4-4-2) with Mascherano holding.

But most importantly, for two reasons. One, you highlight: Alonso and Mascherano in the center. Two, it's the way Liverpool got the best out of Torres and Gerrard last season.