29 January 2010

Liverpool v Bolton 01.30.10

10am, live in the US on Setanta.

Last 4 head-to-head:
3-2 Liverpool (a) 08.29.09
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.15.08
3-1 Liverpool (a) 03.02.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Wolves (a); 2-0 Spurs (h); 1-1 Stoke (a)
Bolton: 1-0 Burnley (h); 2-0 Sheffield Utd (h); 2-4 Arsenal (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 12; Kuyt 7; Benayoun, Gerrard 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Bolton: Klasnic 6; Cahill, Taylor 5; Lee 4; Cohen, Davies 3; Elmander 2; Gardner 1

Referee: Steve Bennett

Ugh. I guess Liverpool couldn't go a whole season without encountering that automaton.

Guess at a squad:
Carragher Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Mascherano Lucas
Gerrard Aquilani Riera

The above is a mix of the line-up I think Benitez will name and what I’d rather see. And it’s mainly because I’m afraid Liverpool will again look to stifle before playing football, even against Bolton at Anfield. And I doubt that’s the best way forward.

Chances are Gerrard’s not lining up on the right of a 4-2-3-1. It’ll probably be Kuyt or Maxi out there depending on whether it’s Kuyt or Ngog up top. But there’s no escaping Gerrard’s form at the moment, and he’s struggled as a second striker (especially without Torres) and in central midfield. 2005-06 is a distant memory, but there’s some precedent for Stevie chipping in goals from the flanks, and it would allow Aquilani, Lucas, and Mascherano to start. Also, I can hear Georger cheering in front of his computer at this idea.

Yes, I was very tempted to “drop” Lucas or Mascherano. And it might even happen. But, going off recent performances – especially the last match – Benitez will first and foremost not want to concede. And thus, even at home against Bolton, both Lucas and Masch will probably start. I wouldn’t be opposed to a line-up similar to 4-0 wins over Burnley and Stoke, which saw Lucas and Gerrard in central midfield, but that formation’s a lot harder to pull off without Torres, Benayoun, and Johnson.

The deeper defense, with Carragher on the right and Kyrgiakos playing, will probably remain as well. It’s firmed up the shaky rearguard, even if it’s hindered the attack by leading to hoofs forwards. And Kyrgiakos will be needed in dealing with Kevin Davies, as he was in August’s reverse fixture. At the same time, the team will have to mind tricky players like Lee and Cohen looking for knockdowns and second balls. And here’s hoping Liverpool doesn’t concede the sloppy free kicks prevalent in that last meeting.

Bolton will look to play more football than they did in August’s match thanks to having Owen Coyle as manager. Even away at Arsenal, Bolton stuck to the game plan and kept the ball on the deck, and went ahead 2-0. Of course, they ended up losing 2-4, but it’s still more than we can say for Liverpool of late.

Coyle picked up his first league win with Bolton, beating his old side on Tuesday. That victory brought Bolton out of the relegation zone, and will boost the side’s confidence. The clean sheet kept was Bolton’s first in 23 league matches. And with no new injuries, Coyle will probably name the same side tomorrow.

No rallying conclusion. No pacifying remarks about the chance for fourth place. Don’t care. Just win.


Marc said...

Games like Bolton really illustrate the difference between being a mid-table team in the Premiership and fighting for the title.

In the old days, we'd look forward to this game as a chance to get 3 points and watch the team strive for dominance. And every game matters when you're fighting among the top 4 because you can't afford to drop a single point to anyone else.

While I realize we're still in the hunt for 4th place, I've seen enough of this team as well as Villa, Spurs, and Man City to know that we aren't the 4th best team in the league. We aren't coming home with that spot. So now these games have a vaguely meaningless feel.

When you're fighting to stay out of relegation, every single game matters. Same for the title chase as I said above. Now, I'm not saying I'd rather be fighting off relegation, but when you're a team that's looking at finishing somewhere between 5th and 8th, there are huge swaths of games that seem less critical. Sure, you wanna beat the big boys, beat Everton, and so on, but a win against Bolton that isn't accompanied by signs that we're actually a good team doesn't do much more -- or less -- for us than a loss or draw.

We're mired in the middle, and performances like those vs Pompey, Stoke, and Wolves suggest that we're not going anywhere.

All of this is to say that points don't mean much anymore. Without signs that Liverpool are able to build a consistent attack, that their hearts are in it, that they are FUN to watch again, what's the real value?

B/c without those signs, 3 points or 0, this season's still full of "meh."

nate said...

Burnley can be fun to watch, but they'll be back in the Championship next season. All I really care about is the three points.

As far as I'm concerned, we saw some of those signs against Spurs. Just because the team reverted to crap against Wolves doesn't mean there isn't some fight left in there.

Regardless, three points against Bolton at Anfield are an absolute must, no matter almost any situation.

Marlon said...

How hard did Martin Kelly kick that post?

nate said...

Really bloody hard, I guess.

At least he's recently back in training. It's not the best stretch to throw him into the fire - v Everton, @ Arsenal, v Unirea, @ City, @ Unirea after Bolton - but I imagine we'll see him sooner rather than later.

Marlon said...

He looked really good against Fior, that's all. I don't think we'd have lost if he stayed on, even.

nate said...

Lyon, but absolutely agreed.

Surprised he didn't make the bench ahead of Darby today.

XI: Reina; Carra Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua; Masch Aquilani; Kuyt Gerrard Riera; Ngog.

Bench: Cavalieri, Agger, Lucas, Babel, Darby, Pacheco, Maxi