06 February 2009

Liverpool at Portsmouth 02.07.09

12:30pm, live in the US on FSC

Last 4 head-to-head:
1-0 Liverpool (h) 10.29.08
4-1 Liverpool (h) 12.22.07
0-0 (a) 09.15.07
1-2 Pompey (a) 04.28.07

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Everton aet (a); 2-0 Chelsea (h); 1-1 Wigan (a)
Pompey: 1-3 Fulham (a); 0-1 Villa (h); 0-2 Swansea (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Torres 7; Kuyt 5; Alonso 3; Babel, Benayoun, Riera 2; Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia 1
Pompey: Crouch 8; Belhadj, Johnson, Nugent 2; Davis, Kranjcar 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a squad:
with Torres
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Alonso Mascherano
Kuyt Benayoun Riera

without Torres
Arbeloa Carragher Hyypia Aurelio
Benayoun Alonso Mascherano Riera
Kuyt Babel

That I rarely guess two different squads should show you that I’ve got absolutely no clue whether or not Torres will start.

The arguments against:
1) He looked dead tired by extra time on Wednesday, and has started five in a row since returning from injury
2) He’s essential to the rest of Liverpool’s season

The arguments for:
1) It’s Torres
2) There’s a weeklong international break coming up
3) If Liverpool doesn’t win pretty much every league match, the rest of the season isn’t going to count for much
4) It’s Torres

That said, I’m still leaning towards guessing he won’t start. Benitez is playing coy about both Torres and Alonso, although I’d be surprised if the midfielder missed out because it didn’t look a serious knock that he took and he’s suspended for the next match. But Torres’ fitness is a completely different bag of apples.

Otherwise, it’ll fall to Kuyt and Babel (and Ngog) to pick up the slack up front. I’d hope that if Torres is out, Liverpool play two up top for added firepower; with the goal return of late, I don’t truly trust Kuyt, Babel, or Ngog on their own.

Benayoun will assuredly play some role, either on the right or as a second striker in the hole, as he did for half of Wednesday derby, and as he did partnering Crouch in the league draw at Arsenal last season.

And the key to stopping Portsmouth will be stopping Crouch. With Defoe sold to Spurs, the Gangly Handful is the only Pompey player with more than two goals. And I’ll admit that I’m worried we could see a reprise of Liverpool’s match against Southampton in 04-05, where the lanky striker surprisingly punished a sloppy opposition. I’d be stunned if Hyypia didn’t start to mark the giant beanpole (who has “good touch for a big man”!).

Also, Pennant, as it was a loan, is ineligible for this match.

Just because Pompey’s on a poor run doesn’t mean Liverpool can look past them. The team’s made plenty of other struggling sides look like defensive world-beaters in previous draws this season.

At this stage of the campaign, hands become tied due to fitness levels and injuries. But Liverpool can have no excuses. The team knows how to win, and knows what they have to do to beat Portsmouth at Fratton Park, even without Gerrard and possibly Torres.


Bilal said...

argh... without Gerrard and needing to protect Torres for a while at least, we really need someone to step up and bang in some goals on a regular basis. Problem is that there aren't any really prolific goal scorers on form at the moment.

Benayoun has looked quite dangerous recently on the wing but aside from him, Babel isn't really firing, Kuyt has dipped alarmingly from his bright start to the season, and Alonso has never been a consistant goal scorer despite his otherwise superb play and long shots.

I'm hoping the ace card is Riera, although he hasn't been exactly prolific since he signed, he's shown he has a sweet shot and is skilled at direct running when he drifts inside. Let's just hope that someone steps up to the plate in the next few weeks,

Lads, if there ever was a time to someone to buck form and become a hero, it'd be about now...

scottw said...

It's odd to wish it, but I do hope that Torres doesn't start Saturday. He was exhausted on Wednesday, and was a passenger during extra time. Plus, I'm terrified of how his hamstring will react, particularly given that he's about to play for Spain again.

That said, hopefully it's just Saturday that we'll be without both of our most threatening pair. Assuming that that is the case, I think that Kuyt is the most likely to net one against Pompey. It is true that he hasn't scored recently, but some of his early goals came playing up top, when he was brilliant in Torres' absence.

Of course, I don't at all care who scores so long as its someone in red.

Anonymous said...

Still don't understand why Torres can't manage two games a week. Rather odd for a professional athlete.

Anyhoo, either one of those lineups should take care of business. I'd love to see Benny playing the hole as 2º striker just to get some, any action at all, in the the middle of the pitch. Our fullback/crossing strategy is a dud. When was the last time we had a game where we constantly threatened the center of their box? AMC next year, por favor.


Bilal said...

But if we take Sunday as the start of the week, this is Torres' third game this week, not to mention him starting so many games so soon after returning from prolonged injury.

Shawn said...

When all hope is lost, when the title seems out of grasp, up pops the magical one. Words cannot express what Fernando Torres means to this club at this moment. I'll take #9 over any striker in the world.

YNWA lads.. lets go Hammers.

Anonymous said...

i like how espn's soccer site has currently reposted a picture of Torres celebrating his game winner against chelsea for today's result. i guess they can get some milage from the pic.