7:45am, live in the US on espn2
Last 4 head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (a) 08.19.09
0-0 (a) 01.10.09
0-0 (h) 09.20.08
8-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 11.29.2000
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Reading aet (h); 1-1 Reading (a); 1-0 Villa (a)
Stoke: 3-2 Fulham (h); 3-1 York (h); 0-1 Brum (h)
Liverpool: Torres 12; Benayoun, Gerrard, Kuyt 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Skrtel 1
Stoke: Beattie 3; Etherington, Faye, Kitson, Shawcross, Tuncay 2; Fuller, Huth, Sidibe, Whelan 1
Referee: Lee Mason
That would be the same Lee Mason who sent off Carragher and Degen at Fulham and Masch at Pompey in his only two Liverpool matches this season.
Guess at a squad:
Carragher Skrtel Agger Insua
Kuyt Aquilani Lucas Aurelio
Well, we keep getting an answer to the question ‘can it get worse?’ Yes. Yes it can.
Not only did Liverpool lose a one-goal lead against Reading to exit their third cup competition of the season (the fourth game where Liverpool’s lost after leading this season), but Gerrard, Torres, and Benayoun all picked up injuries which will keep them out a minimum of two weeks (four for Yossi and six for Torres). And now we’re hearing Reina didn’t play on Wednesday due to a slight back injury.
That injury news is obviously not good. Better news is that Rodriguez’s registration has gone through in time and Riera’s fit enough to travel. However, as much as I’d like to see either player, if not both, in the line-up, their respective time out of the team should preclude either from starting.
Even with the injury problems, we won’t see Babel tomorrow. According to his twitter feed, he’s been left out of the squad entirely (Babel protects his tweets and I'm not about to start following him, but RAWK’s on top of it). Given his performance against Reading, I’m not surprised, but I thought squad limitations would force Rafa's hand. Benitez is nothing if not obstinate. And here’s hoping it means more time for the likes of Pacheco.
Degen didn’t look too bad against Reading (compared to preconceived notions of the player and his teammates' performances), but having gone off with a knock before extra time makes me doubt his inclusion tomorrow. And that Darby didn’t even make the bench for Reading seems to show Carragher’s being readied for right back. Which isn’t the most tantalizing prospect given Skrtel’s woes and the lack of firepower going forward (as much time as I have for both players, a right flank of Carra and Kuyt is creating zero). Here’s hoping Martin Kelly soon joins Riera in returning to the team.
Stoke only sit three places and nine points behind Liverpool. Unsurprisingly, their chairman thinks they can take something from this game. And rightfully so – every team in England can see Liverpool’s weaknesses, and no one’s afraid of them anymore. Kitson and Fuller are pacey, Rory Delap’s long throws will cause set play problems, and Thomas Sorenson’s been one of the best keepers this season. But good on Tony Pulis for his defense of Benitez today – I agree with every word.
I truly hope Pulis is right in comparing Liverpool to a wounded animal. We’ve been clamoring to see that sort of reaction from the team for months now. I’ve no clue where the ‘backs against the wall, us against the world’ mentality went, but it’s desperately needed.