10am ET, live in the US on FSP
Last 4 head-to-head:
2-2 (h) 11.09.09
2-2 (a) 04.26.08
0-0 (h) 09.22.07
1-0 Liverpool (a; League Cup) 11.08.06
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Benfica (a); 3-0 Sunderland (h); 1-2 United (a)
Brum: 1-1 Arse (h); 1-2 Blackburn (a); 1-3 Sunderland (a)
Liverpool: Torres 18; Kuyt 9; Gerrard 6; Benayoun 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 3; Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Brum: Jerome 9; Bowyer 5; Larsson, McFadden, Phillips 4; Chucho, Ridgewell 2; Gardner, O’Connor 1
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Maxi Gerrard Babel
Please, please, please don’t punish Babel for yesterday’s sending off. The result and subsequent criticism have been punishment enough, and if any player’s a confidence player, it’s Babel. You’ve all seen my past condemnation of him, and my recent conversation to advocate. If he becomes out of favor for this incident, I fear that the last six weeks of good work will go down the drain, especially since he’s ineligible for next week’s match at the least.
Yes, I’m surprised I’ve guessed a line-up without Kuyt as well. My reasons are two-fold. One, I would willingly pay money so that Maxi doesn’t line up on the left. The more I’ve seen him, the more I’m convinced he is a right-winger, and needs to line up on that side. He was outstanding last Sunday. The second is resting Kuyt after an all-action performance yesterday, running ragged for 90 minutes with a man down for two-thirds of that.
Were this at Anfield, I’d be tempted to suggest the same line-up that won 3-0 against Sunderland, and I almost guessed it anyway. But 4-4-2 away from home admittedly still frightens me. I wouldn’t be surprised (or upset) to see it, but wanting to control the middle of the park seems more likely in a match such as this.
I still don’t expect any changes in defense, even with some mandatory next Thursday. Maybe we’ll see Agger or Carragher on the left (remember, Carra spent an entire season at LB under Houllier) with Kyrgiakos in the middle as preparation for the Europa League, or maybe Benitez will throw a complete spanner in the works, like 3-4-3 at Sunderland in the fall or Johnson at LB (happened twice in preseason), but I doubt it. Insua needs the start for confidence as much as Babel, even if he’s played far too many games this season.
I fancied Brum to surprise this season – one of the few predictions I was right about – but I didn’t expect to see them in 9th, fairly comfortable in the top-half of the table with six games to play. McLeish has done an amazing job (yet again), and I only expect the club to improve with Yeung looking to spend in the summer. Both Chucho and Jerome are dangerous strikers, demonstrated in November’s meeting, while Lee Bowyer and Kevin Phillips have both turned the clock back this season.
Birmingham’s continued their voodoo over Liverpool even after Steve Bruce’s exit. The last time Liverpool beat them in the league was before Benitez, in May ‘04 (although the club spent ‘06-07 and ‘08-09 in the Championship).
Thankfully, Liverpool has a bit of motivation going into this one. Fourth is still barely up for grabs and the team should be full of vengeance after Thursday. Liverpool have multiple points to prove. Prove them.