10am, live in the US on Setanta Xtra
Last 4 head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 04.11.09
3-1 Liverpool (a) 12.06.08
3-1 Liverpool (h) 04.13.08
0-0 (a) 11.03.07
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 Everton (a); 1-0 Debrecen (a); 2-2 City (h)
Blackburn: 3-3 Chelsea (h; Blackburn wins 4-3 on penalties); 0-0 Stoke (h); 0-3 Fulham (a)
Liverpool: Torres 10; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 4; Ngog 3; Babel, Johnson 2; Skrtel 1
Blackburn: Dunn 5; Roberts 3; Chimbonda, Di Santo, Diouf, Givet, Nelsen, Nzonzi, Samba 1
Okay, so I guess I have to count last Sunday’s opener an OG. If it doesn't hit Yobo, it doesn't go in. Sorry, Masch. Hopefully the dubious goals panel will come through, but I’m not holding my breath.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Riera
Once again, no Torres. I’ll throw a massive tantrum if he plays in next Wednesday’s dead rubber against Fiorentina, so hopefully one more week off means availability for Arsenal on the 13th.
But instead of suggesting Ngog get a fifth-straight start in Torres’ absence, I’m hoping both Benayoun and Riera will be fit enough for the flanks, moving Kuyt up top as a lone striker. Admittedly, this might not be a popular option. Ngog hasn’t played badly; in fact, he’s been better than expected with as much time as he’s seen. And Kuyt’s never set the world afire as a lone striker unless Liverpool’s playing Newcastle (okay, slight exaggeration, seeing as he was a lone striker in Liverpool’s 3-1 win in this fixture last year).
Kuyt hasn’t been anywhere near his best of late, but scored a nice predatory goal up front against Everton. Riera definitively changed the game upon coming on, and provides a much-needed different option on the left. And Benayoun’s been Liverpool’s best attacker this season, influential on either flank (although I still think he’s better on the right). Chances are we’ll see Ngog with Kuyt, Gerrard, and Benayoun or Riera, but I think the above line-up would pose more problems for Blackburn
Either way, Gerrard will make his 500th appearance for the club, joining Carragher as the only current player with more than 500, and only the 13th in club history. You can’t say enough about the captain, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see the occasion marked with a trademark goal.
Tomorrow could finally be the game where Aquilani gets extended time, and potentially a start. Away at Ewood, Benitez might be hesitant to debut Aqua in a match where Allardyce’s team will perpetually foul. But I’m tempted to suggest a line-up similar to that which I suggested against Debrecen: Aquilani starting in place of either Lucas or Mascherano to add an extra attacking dimension. But it’s probably more likely that Aqua’s first start will be the meaningless last Champions League game.
I can’t decide whether Blackburn’s result on Wednesday helps or hurts Liverpool’s chances. Having to play 90 minutes plus extra time when Liverpool didn’t have a midweek match is a bonus, but Blackburn’s win over league-leading Chelsea is an obvious morale boost, especially for former England keeper Problemson (© Ace Cowboy), who saved two penalties. Allardyce’s heart operation is seemingly the best thing that’s happened to the club this season; they’ve been far better during Fat Sam’s convalescence.
In addition, it appears Saturday’s match will come too soon for David Dunn, who’s been Blackburn’s best player so far this season. Blackburn will still find a way to ask the necessary questions through players like Chelsea loanee Franco Di Santo and El Hajdi Diouf (*spit*) though.
Five matches unbeaten, up to fifth in the league, and the corner supposedly turned with a win at Goodison five days ago. But Liverpool supposedly turned the corner with that 2-0 win over United more than a month ago. Enough false dawns. Three more points please.