2:45pm, live in the US on FSC
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-3 Fulham (a); 1-2 Arsenal (a); 2-0 United (h)
Lyon: 1-0 St Etienne (a); 1-4 Nice (a); 2-1 Liverpool (a)
Liverpool: 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 1-0 Debrecen (h)
Lyon: 2-1 Liverpool (a); 4-0 Debrecen (a); 1-0 Fiorentina (h)
Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (BEL)
De Bleeckere was the man in the middle for wins over Inter and Real in the last two seasons. Let’s hope he continues to be a good luck charm.
Guess at a squad:
Darby Carragher Agger Insua
Kuyt Benayoun Babel
So, Gerrard, Johnson, Kelly, Riera, Skrtel, Aurelio, and El Zhar haven’t traveled. Neither has Degen, who’s not on the CL list. At best, Agger, Ngog, Aquilani, and Cavalieri are the only ones who'll be available tomorrow but weren’t on Saturday. This is the worst stretch of injuries I can remember at the club.
And, to make matters that much more interesting, it turns out Torres is worse than feared. The suggestions of a hernia operation have me scared shitless. I’ve had that operation, for an inguinal hernia, and while the quality of care he’ll get is miles better (I still hate the surgeon that messed my operation up), it’d put him out for at least six weeks. And, worst case, he’ll lose a ton of power from his shot for a few more weeks. Yikes. At least, from my experience, you can put off a hernia operation, and while it’s obviously affecting the player, it can’t get much worse. Either you need hernia surgery or you don’t.
With Johnson and Kelly out, it’ll be either Darby or Carragher at right back. I’d feel a lot better about Carra at RB if Skrtel were fit, but I don’t know about an Agger/Kyrgiakos partnership with Carra out wide. Starting a young player in a match of this importance always frightens, but Kelly didn’t let the team down in similar circumstances, and Darby deserves his shot. However, since Carra is suspended for the next few league matches, maybe he’ll play at RB as Liverpool doesn’t have to worry about his fitness.
The midfield’s in similar dire straits. At least Lucas and Mascherano are both fit, but as we’ve seen before, we’re not going to get much creativity from the two of them. With the squad stretched as thin as it is, I’ve seen suggestions that Aquilani will start, but that's hard to believe since he’s played a total of 15 minutes off the bench so far. Aqua will almost certainly see time as a sub though. Even though Liverpool was picked apart in the middle against Lyon with Aurelio playing, Fabio would be a huge help tomorrow. Sigh.
And then there’s the attack, which will continue to rely on a half-fit Torres. I doubt Voronin will get a second chance – I’d rather the inconsistent threat of Babel before the diligence of Voronin – but we need much, much more from both Benayoun and Kuyt. The two of them are key to linking play in the final third in Gerrard’s absence. When Liverpool’s succeeded without the captain, those two have played blinders (see: United). When they’re off, Liverpool struggles mightily (see: Fulham).
It’s not as if Lyon are in a happy place right now, but it’s Shangri-La compared to Liverpool. The French side are still missing the majority of their central defenders, and midfielder Toulalan will probably again start with Cris. Not that Liverpool was able to challenge the makeshift pairing much in the previous meeting. Govou’s also been stripped of the captaincy, and yet it was that player who prevented an on-field fight between Toulalan and manager Claude Puel on Saturday. Yet Lyon still have more than enough to punish a defense missing three right-backs, a centerback, and a left-back in Govou, Lopez, Pjanic, and Gomis.
I’m sick of the dire predictions and ultimatums. We all know where Liverpool currently stands, and where Liverpool will probably end up if they don’t take all three points (read: Europa League). It’s an absolute worst-case scenario with this many players missing. But we’ve seen Liverpool with backs firmly pressed against the wall before. Let’s hope a similar result’s won.