25 August 2010

Liverpool at Trabzonspor 08.26.10

Liverpool lead 1-0 on aggregate.

1:30pm ET; not on TV in the US. Again. And so far, my DirecTV guide only has Sunday's West Brom game on delay: FS+ at 7pm. Not good. I'm blaming Purslow for this, too.

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-3 City (a); 1-0 Trabzonspor (h); 1-1 Arsenal (h)
Trabzonspor: 3-2 Fenerbahce (h); 0-1 Liverpool (a); 2-0 Ankaragucu (a)

Referee: Ivan Bebek (CRO)

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Aurelio
Lucas Poulsen
Kuyt Cole Pacheco

The traveling party, announced this morning, seemingly tells the world where Liverpool's priorities lie. Torres, Gerrard, Maxi, Agger and Jovanovic all stayed on Merseyside after four of those five started at City on Monday.

It comes down to cold, cruel calculations. As so often noted, Liverpool have a small squad and this competition isn't anywhere near the list of priorities. We were always going to see some rotation. But resting key players will not guarantee a better league performance, as Aston Villa proved in a similar situation last year. I cannot imagine the torrent of criticism that would follow going out of the Europa League at this stage, and – I hate to admit – this squad makes that look a bit more likely. I was already worried with such a slight advantage in a daunting venue after Monday's abortion of a match.

The full squad of 19:
Reina, Gulacsi, Hansen, Johnson, Kelly, Skrtel, Carragher, Krygiakos, Aurelio, Cole, Spearing, Poulsen, Lucas, Pacheco, Shelvey, Babel, Kuyt, Ngog, Eccleston.

From that, looks like it'll be Lucas and Poulsen clogging the midfield, Ngog or Babel up top, two of Kuyt, Pacheco, and Babel on the flanks, and Cole definitely in the hole (yes, I thoroughly enjoy writing "Cole in the hole"). Johnson and Aurelio will probably start at fullback – although I'm still tempted to suggest Kelly take one of those spots – while Carragher will captain the side and partner either Skrtel or Kyrgiakos. Eking a narrow win or draw isn't outside the realm of possibility with that XI, but the job's a lot harder with five important players missing.

It's no surprise to see Torres and Agger out because of each's respective fitness. Maxi's illness forced his exclusion. But the omission of both Gerrard and Jovanovic is surprising; make no mistake, they're both being rested. Jovanovic's played every competitive match to date this season, while if Gerrard needed or wanted to play tomorrow, he could, minor back injury or not. I'd have guessed both to start before seeing this morning's squad.

The Europa League's no cash-spinner, and it'd be nice to have Saturday league games again, which isn't going to happen as long as there are Thursday night cup matches. But winning breeds confidence. And Liverpool desperately need confidence at the moment. I wouldn't mind the above squad so much if Liverpool had put more past Trabzonspor at home or weren't so dire on Monday, but circumstances are what they are. And these circumstances feel like more shit piled upon the growing mountain. Even if it's not the case, the implication is now that Hodgson doesn't care about the Europa League, and the media will assuredly respond accordingly. I can hear the knifes being sharpened already. The honeymoon was fun while it lasted.

Trabzonspor beat one of the big Istanbul three at home last Sunday: scoring three against Fenerbahce, with strikes from Yattara and Glowacki as well as an own goal. The Huseyin Avni Aker Stadium will be an absolute cauldron, and any win would be an excellent win, no matter the XI. By all accounts, their match on Sunday was open in the extreme, with five goals in the first half (and, as football goes, none in the second), which is the antithesis of this year's Liverpool team to date. This year's model has all of last season's attacking ineptitude combined with Gerrard in midfield and a defense that sits 10 yards deeper. Yes, there have only been five games so far, but still, fun times.

Right now, Liverpool seem there for the taking with a narrow lead going into a tough away venue. In the Europa League qualifiers, of all competitions. But this is Anfield these days.

You're doing a heck of a job, George and Tommy. You too, Cecil and Martin.


Mike Georger said...

So the day Aquilani is officially sent out if the day Gerrard's first injury of many this year happens.

Anyone not see that playing out exactly this way?

nate said...

Fitting, to be sure, but can't help thinking (hoping?) the back injury will miraculously clear up for WBA before hurting again, ruling him out for the international break. AKA the old Ferguson trick.

drew said...

I think I'm honestly reaching a point where the certain anguish of watching matches is outweighing any potential joy.