10am, live in the US on Setanta
I don’t know how many are going to see this preview, but I thought getting it up on Christmas Eve would be a bit better than on the actual holiday tomorrow. Hope everyone who celebrates this commercialism gets everything they’re hoping for. Happy Holidays.
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.15.08
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.02.08
4-0 Liverpool (h) 12.02.07
3-0 Liverpool (h) 01.01.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Arsenal (a); 2-2 Hull (h); 3-1 PSV (a)
Bolton: 2-1 Pompey (h); 2-4 Villa (a); 0-2 Chelsea (h)
Liverpool: Gerrard 6; Kuyt, Torres 5; Keane 3; Alonso 2; Arbeloa, Babel, Benayoun, Carragher, Riera 1
Arsenal: Davies, Elmander, Taylor 5; Cahill, Gardner, Steinsson 2
Referee: Alan Wiley
Guess at a squad:
Carragher Hyypia Agger Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Except for the backline, this is the same line-up that beat Bolton 2-0 in November.
The Echo reports that Arbeloa will miss the next couple of weeks with a hamstring (sigh) injury, while I hope Insua stays in the team after his performance against Arsenal. There’s always a chance Darby could step in at right back, but I imagine Benitez (whether he’s present or not) will stick with an established player, especially if Insua is on the left. Doesn’t seem likely he’d play both youngsters in the same league fixture.
As usual, the question is whether Liverpool will go 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 at home. Will Liverpool sacrifice Alonso or Mascherano (more likely Masch) for N’Gog or Babel? Or Kuyt up top with Benayoun, Babel, or Pennant (the forgotten man – who’s stunningly been rumored for a Real move, in the linked article above) on the right?
Honestly, even though the added firepower looks needed with the recent goal return, I doubt it’ll happen. When Torres returns – and that’s seemingly soon – it’ll be more of a debate, but for now, I’ll be surprised if Liverpool deviates from the 4-2-3-1. It gets the best players on the pitch, and it’s a formation that’s brought Liverpool success, even if it hasn’t happened with Keane up top. But the Irishman showed signs of improvement with a well-taken goal against the Arse, and Liverpool started to adapt to the way he wants the ball. Granted, it led to more long balls from deep than we’re used to, but whatever works. And with the way Bolton plays – with a congested midfield hoofing forward for Davies and Elmander – it’s not the worst tactic.
But Bolton has played some decent football of late. I got the chance to see their match against Pompey last Saturday, and up two within three minutes, they deserved to win by more. As in the match at the Reebok last month, Gardner spurned a couple of sitters (knock on wood, let's hope that doesn't change). Despite two losses in their last three, they’ve risen up to 9th on the backs of three wins from the last five. Elmander’s starting to settle (I finally don’t look stupid for having him in my fantasy team), Gardner adds an extra dimension on the left, and they’re still a physical handful of a team.
Liverpool have been lucky of late – when they drop points, so have the teams around them. But as with the late winners a few months back, that luck can’t last forever. The team needs to pick up wins at Anfield, and with the fixtures coming quickly over the next couple of weeks, needs to hit top form, as they have during the winter in previous campaigns.