2:45pm, live in the US on Setanta.
Group stage so far:
Liverpool: 1-0 Marseille (h); 1-1 Atletico (h); 1-1 Atletico (a); 3-1 PSV (h); 2-1 Marseille (a)
PSV: 0-3 Atletico (h); 1-3 Liverpool (a); 2-0 Marseille (h); 0-3 Marseille (a); 1-2 Atletico (a)
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Blackburn (a); 0-0 West Ham (h); 1-0 Marseille (h)
PSV: 4-2 Groningen (h); 2-2 Heerenveen (a); 1-2 Atletico (a)
Liverpool: Gerrard 5; Keane, Kuyt 2
PSV: Koevermans 4
Referee: Nikolay Ivanov (RUS)
I don’t know why ynwa.tv has stopped doing ref profiles of late, but I’m disappointed all the same.
Guess at a squad:
Darby Carragher Agger Dossena
Benayoun Gerrard Riera
Torres and Aurelio are injured (as are Skrtel and Degen), Kuyt didn’t travel, and Insua, El Zhar, and Hyypia aren’t available for the CL group stages. Plus, with all the games recently (and the upcoming Christmas program), Liverpool’s undoubtedly making some changes. But how many and what the team shape will be are up in the air.
This will be a massive game for Keane. Left on the bench for the entirety on Saturday, he’ll have an additional point to prove. But, with a £20m price tag and Torres out injured again, he’s got a point to prove anyway. And unless Benitez sees fit to start Babel up top, I think the Irishman will be plowing a lone furrow. Although, having seen Ngog last Monday, I reckon he’s got a chance as well.
With Lucas looking a nailed-on starter, my best guess is it’ll be Alonso rested, although there’s a case to be made for giving Gerrard some time off as well. And if both Alonso and Gerrard miss out, it seemingly will have to be 4-4-2, with either Babel or Ngog partnering Keane. But I’d be surprised if Benitez saw fit to play both Masch and Lucas with two strikers – I can’t remember that happening very often.
With Hyypia ineligible for the CL, Agger has to come back in after sitting on Saturday, and I reckon his omission over the weekend had something to do with tomorrow’s game (although Hyypia has been in fine form, and his aerial prowess was needed against Rovers). Similarly, Dossena seemingly has to be the starter at left back with Aurelio injured and Insua not on the CL list. And to complete a host of changes to the backline, I’m hopeful Darby will get his first start of the season at right back, as Arbeloa could use the rest as well and Darby’s been one of the highlights in the reserve team.
Although Atletico and Liverpool are certain to advance to the knockout stages, PSV still has something to play for in 3rd place, which would mean qualification for the UEFA Cup. But they’d need Atletico to do the business as well – Marseille’s above PSV on head-to-head goal difference.
And if Atletico does the business, chances are Liverpool will finish second. As it stands, Atletico’s one goal above Liverpool. If Liverpool better Atletico by more than a goal, super – on paper, it looks better to face Panathinaikos, Sporting Lisbon, Villarreal, Bayern, FC Porto, or Real rather than Roma, Inter, Barca, Lyon, or Juve (although those aren’t set in stone). But Liverpool won the CL in 2005 after struggling through their group, and coasted through their group in 2006 only to lose to Benfica in the next round. Champions League pairings are always a throw of the dice, and for the most part, all the teams are the cream of the crop at this stage.
More important are two things. First and foremost, keeping players healthy for the league run. Second, keeping morale up after a good win on Saturday. It would be lovely to see Liverpool do well tomorrow, and get a good match-up in the draw on December 19. But when it comes down to it, I’d much rather the three points four days later against Hull.