27 January 2009

Liverpool at Wigan 01.28.09

2:45pm, live in the US on FSC

Another game I’ll miss because of class and watch on DVR. Review should be up late evening.

Last 4 head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (h) 10.18.08
1-1 (h) 01.02.09
1-0 Liverpool (a) 09.29.07
2-0 Liverpool (h) 04.21.07

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Everton (h); 1-1 Everton (h); 0-0 Stoke (a)
Wigan: 0-1 City (a); 0-1 United (a); 1-0 Spurs (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Keane, Kuyt, Torres 5; Alonso 3; Babel, Riera 2; Arbeloa, Benayoun, Carragher, Hyypia 1
Wigan: Zaki 10; Valencia 3; Camara, Taylor 2; Boyce, Bramble, Cattermole, Figueroa,

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Alonso Riera
Torres Keane

Benitez doesn’t change his stripes to satisfy one player, but I’ll still be very, very surprised if Robbie Keane doesn’t start. Whether it’s with Torres or not – and again, in what formation – seems to be a bigger question.

With Torres playing 90 minutes three days ago and only recently back from injury, he may make way, which would mean either Keane as a focal point at the top or paired with Kuyt. Obviously, I’m dearly hopeful that won’t be the case, and we get to see El Niño continue to play, but it’s something to be wary of.

Despite my previous post (and many before that), I reckon we’ll see some good old 4-4-2 tomorrow. My best guess is that either Alonso or Mascherano misses out as Benitez uses both Keane and Torres, shifting Gerrard deeper into central midfield. Even though comments since Sunday about getting the Gerrard-Torres partnership back on track seem to imply different, it’s unlikely that Keane will fail to start in a second straight game.

Georger brought up Gerrard on the right of the 4-4-2 in the comments in the previous post, and I’ll agree wholeheartedly – I’d love to see it attempted with Torres and Keane up top and Riera staying wide on the left – but I doubt it’s forthcoming.

And it’s worth noting that it was 4-4-2 in the reverse fixture with Kuyt and Keane up top, Alonso and Gerrard in the center, and Riera and Pennant (one of two league starts) on the flanks.

In that last meeting, Liverpool threw on two attackers, playing a sort of 2-5-3 formation, which turned a 1-2 deficit into a 3-2 victory. Zaki was masterful in that match, but hasn’t been able to keep up the scoring pace he started the season with. And even though the last two results haven’t gone their way, Wigan are still a dangerous team, winning six of seven before those last two to take them up to seventh in the league.

But the sales of Heskey and Palacios will have an impact. Wigan’s bought replacements in Mido (who’ll at least be on the bench – and scored against Liverpool for Boro in August) and Rodallega (who still needs international clearance), but it’s probably (knock on wood) too early for them to make an impact. Regardless, I’m always fearful when Liverpool faces Steve Bruce-led sides, which always seem to give Benitez trouble.

It goes without saying that Liverpool’s drawn too many matches of late. The official site’s headline of an interview with Hyypia is spot on, stating that every game’s must-win from here on out. Hopefully, away from Anfield, where the teams’ drawn four out of the last five, will relieve some of the pressure, allowing for a good result before hosting Chelsea on Sunday. But Liverpool’s can’t look past the tricky trip to Wigan trip.

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