17 February 2010

Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni 02.18.10

3:05pm, live in the US on DirecTV channel 462 (or in HD on 462-1).

The Europa League is only carried on GolTV and DirecTV. GolTV isn’t showing the Liverpool match live or on tape delay, so if you don’t have DirecTV, you’re probably stuck with a stream. I know you’re sick of me suggesting, but DirecTV is quite awesome and you should get it if you can (although we’re still without FSC HD or FSC+).

Group Stage Results:
Liverpool: 1-2 Fiorentina (h); 1-0 Debrecen (a); 1-1 Lyon (a); 1-2 Lyon (h); 0-2 Fiorentina (a); 1-0 Debrecen (h)
Unirea: 1-3 Stuttgart (a); 1-0 Sevilla (h); 1-1 Rangers (h); 4-1 Rangers (a); 1-1 Stuttgart (h); 0-2 Sevilla (a)

Last 3 matches:
Liverpool: 0-1 Arsenal (a); 1-0 Everton (h); 2-0 Bolton (h)
Unirea: 2-0 Iasi (h); 3-2 Ceahlaul (a); 2-0 Gloria (h)

Goalscorers (all competitions):
Liverpool: Torres 12; Kuyt 10; Benayoun 7; Gerrard, Ngog 6; Babel 3; Johnson 2; Insua, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Unirea: Bilasco 7; Onofras 5; Semedo 4; Apostol, Brandan, Frunza 2; Galamaz, Maftei, Paduretu, Rusescu, Varga 1

Referee: Eric Braamhaar (NED)

Guess at a squad:
Kelly Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Lucas Aquilani
Babel Gerrard Riera

This is a complete and utter guess at a line-up. It’s even more of a shot in the dark than usual, made less certain by injuries and a crucial game against City three days later.

With Kyrgiakos suspended for the next two league outings and Carragher just recovering from a groin strain suffered against Arsenal, I’m hoping the big Greek lines up in the middle with either Skrtel or Agger. More importantly, I’m really hoping to see Kelly at right back instead of Carragher or Degen. Now that he’s fit after the unfortunate injury against Lyon, we need to see what the young defender can do. He looked the part against the French side, and can’t do much worse defensively than Degen did against the Arse.

I’m also hoping to see Aquilani feature after a virus last week. I don’t know how necessary Mascherano is at home against Romanian opposition, even if he is in tremendous form, but I know he’ll be key against City. Lucas has done an adequate job as a holding midfielder when paired with Aqua or Gerrard, and I think the dynamism of those two going forward will be far more important.

Many will be surprised I’m guessing a start for Babel. I am too. However, I still think Liverpool will stick with the 4-2-3-1, which Ngog has struggled in. Hopefully Riera will be fit given he hasn’t started the last two matches. Maxi’s ineligible, having played for Atletico in the Champions League. Had either Liverpool or Atletico qualified for the CL knockout rounds, Maxi’s be available, but no such luck. I think a front four of Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, and Riera is the best mix of speed, attacking prowess, and balance possible given injuries and squad depth. Three of the four can switch positions at will. I’m obviously hoping to see Pacheco, as was mentioned in the post-Arsenal comments, but I think it’s far more likely to happen off the bench.

Unirea, joint top of the Romanian league along with Cluj and Steuea Bucharest, hasn’t played since mid-December due to the league’s winter break. And manager Dan Petrescu, formerly of Chelsea, resigned since the draw was made, replaced by Israeli Roni Levy. That name might be familiar – Levy was in charge of Maccabi Haifa when they faced Liverpool in ‘06/07 CL qualifying.

I admittedly know very little about the club. I didn’t see any of their CL games and I don’t know any of the players on their roster. But they beat and held Rangers – who are running away with the SPL – in their two meetings, running Stuttgart and Sevilla close as well.

This will be no picnic. There’s a temptation to put all the eggs in the fourth place basket, but European competition is European competition and a trophy’s a trophy. Liverpool should start with a strong line-up in the hopes of recovering from the Arsenal loss, getting back to the form that saw them unbeaten in seven league games.


Mike Georger said...

They're the team Lehman peed on the field against, leading to the greatest headline of the year "Jens is the Unirea Urinator."

Marlon said...

The Gerrard as second striker thing hasn't really worked out this year so I'd be happy to see Gerrard move back to midfield to pair up with Masch if it let Dani on the field. Our midfield would make more sense as Lucas becomes cover for Masch and Aqua for Gerrard. (And Gerrard for Dani).

Marc said...

I hope Babel starts, just to see if he can bring his best form to bear without having to come off the bench. But again, I would love to see him up front. The main concern with Ngog (against whom I have nothing) is that he's too tentative at this point. Babel can be decisive, and if they play off him around the edges of the box at all, he can smash one home. Maybe he can pair with the kid to ease the pressure. Btw, I have no idea *when* I became some sort of Babel apologist, but I think my interest in him has more to do with just trying to shake things up and find any kind of offensive rhythm. If Rafa ever tried it and it failed, I promise to shut the eff up.

I like Marlon's idea of pushing Stevie back as well. Maybe more touches in midfield would keep him focused. I'd love to see a 4-4-2:
Kelly Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Kuyt Gerrard Lucas Reira
Babel Ngog

We rest up Masch and Carra for Sunday, we put athletes up front, and we get Gerrard the ball more in midfield.

Of course, I suspect we will see:
Kelly Skrtel Kyrgiakos Insua
Lucas Aquilani
Kuyt Gerrard Riera

And like a basketball team without a go-to guy, I think we'll struggle to find an identity in attack. Sometimes, you need someone bossy/selfish up front to whom you funnel all the action. It creates a clear gameplan and identity for everyone involved.

I'm predicting a 1-1 draw tonight unless Rafa shakes up the lineup more and experiments. But, as always, I am hoping for the best.