12:15pm, live in the US on Setanta
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h) 03.15.08
1-3 Reading (a) 12.08.07
4-2 Liverpool (a; Carling Cup) 09.25.07
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.07.07
Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Villa (a); 2-0 Wolves (h); 0-2 Pompey (a)
Reading: 1-4 Plymouth (a); 1-1 Swansea (h); 1-1 Bristol City (a)
Goalscorers (all competitions):
Liverpool: Torres 12; Benayoun 7; Kuyt, Ngog 6; Gerrard 5; Babel 3; Johnson 2; Insua, Skrtel 1
Reading: Sigurdsson 7; Rasiak 6; Church 4; Bignall, Hunt, Mills, Mooney, Pearce 2; Cisse, Howard, Kebe, McAnuff 1
Guess at a squad:
Darby Carragher Skrtel Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Babel
Benitez has firmly stated that the FA Cup’s more important with the state Liverpool’s in, yet I can’t help but expected a weaker line-up. It won’t be the Carling Cup by any means – there are eight days until the next match, and it's impossible to overestimate the team’s need to keep winning (three in a row for the first time in 20 matches would be nice) – but three games in the last week, injuries/the need to rest players (Torres and possibly Gerrard), and the fact that the Premiership has to be the priority will affect the team put out.
The biggest, and most necessary, change should be Ngog for Torres. Torres might be fitter than we suspect and just needs game-time, off the pace from being in and out of the side, but I doubt it. I’m tempted to suggest similar in regards to Gerrard, but the captain’s usually a different case, especially with eight days to rest up. And yes, I’m still fearful of Aquilani starting instead of either Lucas or Spearing, even with a week off. It’d be his third start in seven days, which is a lot for someone who’s been wrapped in cotton wool for four months.
But if Babel doesn’t start, he truly is on his way out. He’s become one of the most divisive players, with those wanting him in the side over-hyping his talents and those fed up with him completely dismissing the player. But this seems a perfect opportunity with Riera still injured, Benayoun not fully fit, and Dossena looking even more likely to depart.
And we got more bad news on the injury front with Johnson now out for at least a month with a medial ligament tear. As Kelly's not fit for another two weeks, I’d assume Degen or Darby would step in at right back, as they’ll be needed over the next few games, but Benitez might use Carragher at right back more often than not. However, the importance of the next month and the improvement of the vice-captain after some early-season problems should lead to his continued presence at centerback. Let Darby and Degen fight for the spot until Kelly and then Johnson are fit.
Reading is currently 20th in the Championship, two points clear of the relegation zone. Brendan Rodgers, a former coach under Mourinho, left Reading by that ubiquitous “mutual consent” two weeks ago, with Brian McDermott taking over as interim boss for the last three games. Few names remain from the side relegated in 2008 – Marek Matejovsky, Ivar Ingimarsson, and Shane Long the most familiar.
But this is the FA Cup, Reading’s at home, and I don’t have to remind anyone of Liverpool’s problems this season. Nothing cab be taken for granted.