12 December 2008

Liverpool v Hull City 12.13.08

10am, live in the US on Setanta

Last 4 head-to-head:
4-2 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 09.21.99
5-1 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 09.14.99
3-2 Liverpool (a; FA Cup) 02.18.89
3-1 Liverpool (h; League Cup) 12.04.73

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 PSV (a); 3-1 Blackburn (a); 0-0 West Ham (h)
Hull: 2-1 Boro (h); 1-1 Stoke (a); 2-2 Pompey (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Kuyt, Torres 5; Gerrard 4; Alonso, Keane 2; Arbeloa, Babel, Benayoun, Carragher, Riera 1
Hull: Geovanni 6; King 5; Cousin, Turner 3; Folan, Garcia, Mendy, Zayatte 1

Referee: Alan Wiley

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Agger Dossena
Babel Gerrard Alonso Riera
Kuyt Keane

Another blind shot in the dark at a line-up, so I’m pretty much guessing what I want to see (outside of Insua for Dossena, naturally).

Maybe it’s the addition of Keane, moving Liverpool away from the 4-2-3-1 more often than not, but I’ve been at a loss when guessing the line-ups far more than in the last two seasons. What formation will Liverpool deploy? Will Keane start? And now that Babel turned in a decent performance on the right (well, he was at least confident, willing to run at defenders, and notched a goal), will it be him or Benayoun on that flank if Kuyt plays as an out-and-out striker? And will Kuyt play after not traveling on Wednesday? It was rumored to be just a slight hamstring strain against Blackburn, but as Torres can attest to, hamstrings are awfully touchy.

My curiosity’s been piqued – I’d like to see Babel given another chance on the right. But given precedent, I’d be surprised if he started two games in a row. In addition, if it’s a cagey, congested match with 10 men behind the ball, Benayoun’s more likely as he’s usually clever enough to pick his way through defense with short passes and good movement. So while I’m guessing Babel, I expect Benayoun – if that makes any sense.

I can also see an Alonso or Mascherano debate if it’s 4-4-2. Alonso’s been the player of the season so far, scored in the last league match, and was rested against PSV. But Mascherano’s not the luxury people make him out to be either – he’d have a big role to play if it is an open game and considering the form Geovanni’s in. However, if I’m forced to pick one or the other going into this match, I’m going with Xabi.

Hull haven’t been prone to parking the bus this season, and they’ve reaped the reward by picking up 26 points from 16 games, currently sitting in sixth place. They attacked United at Old Trafford and only lost 3-4, attacked Arsenal at the Emirates and won 2-1, and attacked Chelsea at home but lost 0-3. However, there’s seemingly a template for when teams come to Anfield – evidenced by the Stoke, Fulham, and West Ham draws – and I’m starting to become fearful of these sorts of games, especially with Torres absent. I’m hoping for an open game – that’s where Liverpool’s best – but I’m wary of another tight one.

The Mancs play at 12:30 tomorrow, and Chelsea’s on Sunday. If Liverpool can do the business here, it’ll put a lot of pressure on those two teams before they even kick a ball.

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