28 July 2010

Liverpool at FK Rabotnicki 07.29.10

2.45pm ET. Not on live TV in the US. As usual with these games, check myp2p or LFC Globe for streams tomorrow.

Guess at a line-up
Kelly Skrtel Kyrgiakos Agger
Amoo Lucas Spearing Jovanovic

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!"

I've used 'once more into the breach' before, but it seemed fitting to go back to that well while including the subsequent line. Yep, I'm looking forward to the coming season! Pity Liverpool aren't up against French opposition. That'd make the Henry V quote even more apt.

Before today, I would have guessed the same XI that faced Kaiserslautern outside of Aquilani for Eccleston. But this morning, the Liverpool Echo reported that while the English World Cup players will stay at Melwood, Agger and Skrtel are among those making the trip to Macedonia. It makes little sense to bring those players except to start.

With Darby uncomfortable at left-back during Liverpool's two previous friendlies, especially against Kaiserslautern, I'm hopeful Agger will step into the fray as a makeshift LB. I'll continue to fervently argue that he's a center-back, and playing him at full-back borders on wastefulness, but at least he's left-footed and comfortable with the ball at his feet. New signing Danny Wilson's in the squad as well, and has recently asserted his willingness to play in the position, but Agger seems the safer option. Meanwhile, a central pairing of Skrtel and Kyrgiakos would set a new standard for terrifying; it'd be a battle to see who can consume more opposition body parts. They may not be the most mobile, but you'd better not let either of them catch you.

Otherwise, I can't see many changes to the front six. I still assume Hodgson will deploy some variation of 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, especially with Liverpool away from Anfield. Aquilani seems the most suited to playing behind Ngog as a lone striker, although we know Jovanovic can play up top if Liverpool use an orthodox 4-4-2. But with a lack of options for the flanks – Jovanovic, Amoo, Eccleston, and Ince are basically it – and an almost certain midfield partnership of Lucas and Spearing (especially after Hodgson's praise of Spearing), Aquilani behind Ngog makes the most sense with this blend of youngsters, reserves, and senior players.

I'd imagine most Liverpool fans are still reliant on Wikipedia and the like for information on Rabotnicki. I won't pretend I'm ahead of the curve. I don't think I've seen any of the Skopje side's players in action before; if I did when England faced Macedonia in Euro 2008 qualifying, I don't remember them. I couldn't find a stream to see their 0-0 in the second leg of the previous round against Mika, which took them through after a 1-0 win at home. Rabotnicki finished second last year in the 12-team league, and have a bunch of Macedonians and a smattering of Brazilians. One of those Brazilians, Fabio Silva, is the side's top scorer through two rounds of Europa League qualifying with five goals. Another Brazilian, Wandeir, has four. It's probably safe to assume those are the main threats. That's all I've got. I'd hope Liverpool's scouting department knows more than I do.

Back to the heady days of traveling to far, foreign lands, to a country where Liverpool's never played. I'm sure there's some sort of metaphor in Hodgson's first competitive match coming in such exotic territory, but I'm too lazy to find it. My only hope is this unfamiliar line-up does themselves more credit than in the two previous preseason matches.

I'll be honest; the Europa League isn't a priority with a thin squad that needs to reassert itself domestically. It should be a competition almost akin to the Carling Cup: blooding youngsters and spelling first-choice players when necessary. But Hodgson has to begin on the right foot, no matter the line-up, or the knives will come out immediately. Being British only gets you so much of a reprieve from the howling wolves who make up the press pack.


Who better than Roy?! said...

I agree with the formation but i think roy will give wilson a chance over kelly

i reckon jovanovic is gonna get a hat trick on his debut


drew said...

Wilson is emphatically not a right back.

As with almost any away fixture in Europe, I'd be thrilled with a score draw.

Marc said...

Hey Nate! I think you're dead on in the formation, but if Liverpool were paying me (fingers crossed!), I'd definitely put Ngog and Jovanovic up front. Both players will be faster than opposition defenders, and I think they'd create many more spacing problems playing off each other than we'd see from isolating Ngog. Plus, I think Jovanovic's age/experience would settle any offensive nerves, and it'd be great to get him on the board in game 1.

My preferred:
Kelly Skrtel Agger Wilson
Amoo Lucas Aquilani Eccleston
Ngog Jovanovic

The biggest problem with the above is the alarming lack of experience up both sidelines. That's why I think we'll see the lineup you suggest.

Here's hoping 1) we don't lose and 2) Aquilani isn't hurt again. Humble goals, I hope.

nate said...

With the players available, I agree with your line-up, Marc, although we can quibble about Agger or Wilson at left back. But I'm guessing Roy won't trust a 4-4-2 central midfield of Aquilani/Lucas, especially away.

I honestly don't get his praise of Spearing – as much as I'd love to see a local lad succeed, I think he's a squad player at best, and is clearly limited. I didn't think he was that good in either friendly. And I fear the "he's English/Scouse (I know those are two very distinct, separate labels), therefore I like him" mindset. But here's hoping Spearing proves me wrong.

Marc said...

Yeah, Agger is the better choice for LB, I just selfishly hope they throw Wilson out there to see what we've got (though maybe only if Jova is at LM/LW so there's more experience ahead of him). And given that pace won't be at a premium, this is probably an ideal game for Soto at CB.

I recall before last season that you posted something on midfield pairings after Alonso left, and that Spearing and Lucas actually had a decent track record despite their limitations (especially Spearing's). Here's hoping they keep it up. On a side note, I'm tempted to attend the USA/Brazil friendly just to see Lucas in person for more insight...

nate said...

Sorry, Marc, you're remembering wrong. He wasn't included in that post because he hadn't started as yet. Only appearances in '08-09 were as a late sub against PSV and Real.

He actually started one game with Lucas last season (one of his three; the other two came in the league cup). It was the 0-1 loss at Sunderland. The less we say about that game, the better.

Marc said...

Curse my old age! ;)