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Last 4 head-to-head:
1-3 Fulham (a) 10.31.09
1-0 Liverpool (a) 04.04.09
0-0 (h) 11.22.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 04.19.08
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Benfica (h); 1-1 Brum (a); 1-2 Benfica (a)
Fulham: 1-0 Wolfsburg (a); 2-1 Wigan (h); 2-1 Wolfsburg (h)
Liverpool: Torres 18; Kuyt 9; Gerrard 7; Benayoun 5; Ngog 4; Babel, Johnson 3; Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Skrtel 1
Fulham: Zamora 8; Dempsey, Duff 6; Murphy 5; Gera, Nevland 2; Elm, Greening, Hangeland, Konchesky, Okaka 1
Referee: Andre Marriner
Guess at a squad:
Johnson Carragher Agger Insua
Maxi Gerrard Aquilani Babel
Had you told me this would be a match-up of the last two English teams in European competition, I’d have laughed right in your face. Probably would have mocked your immediate family as well. Funny old game, isn’t it?
Once again, will Aquilani come back into the side? We finally saw what we’d been hoping for from Lucas against Benfica – dynamic runs forward (including one tremendous finish) while still ably aiding Mascherano’s quest to tackle every player in black – but I wonder how much the match took out of the Brazilian. On face value, this is a game for Aqua, where Liverpool need as many goal threats as possible, but I said the same thing about Thursday’s match.
Benitez will obviously have to change some things up with only two days between fixtures. Specifically, 90 minutes for Benayoun yesterday makes me believe Babel will get another start on Sunday, although I admit that might just be hope. And at the same time, while Kuyt rarely seems to need rest, Maxi’s been excellent on the right in the league. If it’s not the above formation, I expect 4-4-2 with Kuyt partnering Torres and Gerrard/Mascherano in midfield.
Despite playing well yesterday, I doubt Agger will remain at left back. In the press conference prior to Benfica, Benitez mentioned a slight injury to Insua, but I haven’t seen anything on that since, and have to believe he’ll play if fit. Agger filled the role splendidly, but he's a center back first and foremost. If Benfica had a dangerous winger who stayed out on the right, Liverpool could have been punished for Agger’s positioning – he’s used to drifting inside because that’s where he always plays. With Duff, Davies, or Gera likely on the right for Fulham, Liverpool will need someone to stop crosses from coming in.
Thankfully, both sides are on the same amount of rest, with Liverpool having a slight edge because their Thursday match was at home. Both Zamora and Simon Davies picked up minor knocks – hopefully both will be ruled out – while Dempsey is out with a thigh problem. Zamora’s in outstanding form, and deserves every one of the “Zamora for England” chants.
Fulham haven’t won away since the opening day of the league, but performed magically last night in Wolfsburg to advance to the Europa League semifinals. The most recent road trip was an 0-2 loss at Hull, Iain Dowie’s one and only win since taking over as manager. In fact, Fulham’s win over Wigan last weekend was the club’s first league victory since February 21, against Birmingham (of all teams). The club has one win, one draw, and three league losses since that match. But like Liverpool in years’ past, they’ve been spectacular in Europe, form be damned.
Let’s hope Fulham continues to focus on the Europa League, while Liverpool should be full of vengeance for the away loss (and two red cards) suffered in the reverse fixture. It goes without saying that “must win” doesn’t come close to summing up this game’s importance.