11am, live in the US on Setanta
I won't have a match review up for a few hours after the final whistle, as I won't be able to see this live. Normally it'd take a natural disaster to make me miss a derby, but with season tickets for the local college basketball program (currently ranked in the top 10!), which plays at 12pm, I don't really have a choice. Thank god for my DVR.
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Everton (h); 0-0 Stoke (a); 2-0 Preston (a)
Everton: 1-1 Liverpool (a); 2-0 Hull (h); 1-0 Macclesfield (a)
Goalscorers (all competitions):
Liverpool: Gerrard 14; Keane, Kuyt 7; Torres 6; Riera 4; Alonso, Babel 3; Hyypia 2; Agger, Arbeloa, Benayoun, Carragher, Lucas, Ngog, Plessis 1
Everton: Arteta, Cahill, Yakubu 5; Fellaini, Osman 4; Lescott, Saha 3; Anichebe, Castillo, Gosling, Jagielka 1
Referee: Mr. Impartial, Steve Bennett
Guess at a squad:
Arbeloa Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Gerrard Riera
Full strength please, but it’s not as if that’s meant much over the past few matches.
With a match against in-form Wigan on Wednesday, followed by Chelsea next Saturday, there’ll be some temptation to rotate. But it’s weeks like these for which Liverpool’s rotated throughout the first half of the season. All three of these matches are crucially important, and I hope to see fairly few changes to the team in each.
Yes, the league is the overriding objective. But after a disappointing draw against the city rivals last time out, this match has taken on an added edge – and it was already massive, with this being the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough, where these two teams met in the FA Cup final.
If I had to guess which senior outfield players would be rested, I’d probably wager on Alonso, Aurelio, and Riera, but I’d still rather all three on the field. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Lucas, Dossena, and Babel in for those three respectively – and with the law of averages – at least one will probably start, but the three I’ve guessed to start have played better and been more important to Liverpool’s successes. But all three also seem to be rested more frequently when Liverpool has a number of games in a row.
In addition, as it’s a domestic cup match, Cavalieri may come in for Reina. The Brazilian had his best game for the club in the last round, but keepers (including Reina) seem twitchier in these derbies, and I’d rather Pepe’s safe hands.
Agger is supposedly fit against after the calf injury that kept him out recently, but I’d be surprised if he started in his first game back, especially since Arbeloa should return, which will allow Carragher to move back into the center. And if you think Carra’ll miss a Merseyside derby, you’re mad.
Even with Fellaini back from suspension, I’ll be surprised if Moyes changes his team from last match. They were (sigh) successful in their aims – limiting Liverpool’s chances, keeping the battle in midfield, and eking out a point in the end – and they’ll try and do similar on Sunday.
This debate over 4-2-3-1 v. 4-4-2 – better known as “why did Liverpool buy Robbie Keane?” – is going to continue as long as Liverpool underperforms.
Recent results have pushed me even further in the direction I’d already been leaning in. I like Robbie Keane as a player. In an ideal world, I’d love to see him succeed at Liverpool. But I’m quickly losing faith that he can with the other attackers in the team, and the quest to wedge him in has cost Liverpool valuable points.
Even though they’ve been given fewer opportunities than hoped thanks to injury, he and Torres have rarely clicked. Keane’s runs have been going unnoticed and the Irishman often seems disillusioned, especially as the game nears the hour mark. He needs a striker like Berbatov (or coughHeskeycough – who’s going to Villa) to play off of, and pick up the flicks that put him in on goal so often for Spurs. Meanwhile, the partnership between Gerrard and Torres that blossomed last season hasn’t been replicated as the skipper’s moved deeper into midfield.
I’m hoping to be proven wrong; it wouldn’t be the first time by any means. But I’m losing faith in Keane fitting in as we’re all losing faith in the title campaign as it slips away two points by two points, thanks to the eight draws incurred so far this season.
But before we can worry more about the league, Liverpool needs a win on Sunday. Yes, we’d all rather #19, but beating the hated neighbors in another derby can boost the confidence enough to reclaim form in the Premiership.