3pm, live in the US on espn2
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h) 12.16.09
1-1 (a) 01.28.09
3-2 Liverpool (h) 10.18.08
1-1 (h) 01.02.09
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Blackburn (h); 3-1 Unirea (a); 0-0 City (a)
Wigan: 0-1 Brum (a); 0-3 Spurs (h); 0-0 Bolton (h)
Liverpool: Torres 13; Kuyt 9; Gerrard 6; Benayoun 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 2; Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Wigan: Rodallega 7; N’Zogbia, Scharner 4; Boyce 3; Bramble, Caldwell, Diame, Figueroa, Gomez, Koumas, McCarthy, Sinclair 1
Referee: Andre Marriner
Guess at a squad:
Mascherano Carragher Kyrgiakos Insua
Maxi Kuyt Benayoun
I’m tempted to guess 4-4-2, as Liverpool lined up against Blackburn. I really am. Liverpool were a bit better in attack last weekend and Benitez used the formation in the reverse fixture when the Latics came to Anfield in December.
But it’s an away match after an international break. Wigan may be in 16th, a point above the relegation zone, but it’ll still be a combative, physical match where Liverpool will be made to work.
Glen Johnson’s finally back in contention, recovering from the knee injury suffered at Villa. But Mascherano did excellently at right back last weekend and Johnson hasn’t played in almost 10 weeks. Injuries to Skrtel and Agger may force Rafa’s hand, which is why I’ve guessed Carragher and Kyrgiakos in the middle despite Rodallega’s speed. Agger may be a big miss on Monday, but if he’s injured, he’s injured.
If Masch plays at right back, Gerrard, Lucas, and Aquilani are the options in midfield. And I still think Benitez will hesitate to use Aquilani away from Anfield. Given how this season’s gone, anything Aquilani does is a bonus. It’s unfortunate and regrettable, but that’s where we are. Lucas and Gerrard in midfield, with Kuyt, Benayoun, and Maxi ahead and Torres leading the line, should be enough to break down Wigan. Benayoun’s consistently played well against Wigan, scoring on his last three visits to the DW Stadium, so his should be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
N’Zogbia and Scharner, Wigan’s 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, are questionable with knee and groin problems respectively. As is former Liverpool target James McCarthy. Gomez and Koumas will probably play if N’Zogbia and Scharner truly are unavailable. Otherwise, Wigan look likely to line up in a more orthodox 4-5-1, with Rodallega (who’s caused Liverpool problems in the past) leading the line.
City, Spurs, and Villa all play in the FA Cup this weekend. Liverpool need to put points on the board and keep pace with competition for fourth. Wigan have been in freefall since the last meeting, winning one in the last 13 league contests, while Liverpool have slowly but surely battled their way up the table. Let’s hope that precedent continues.