08 September 2010

Early International Breaks Are Still Meaningful and Worthwhile

I haven't seen a full summary of how Liverpool players fared during the international break (I admittedly might not be looking hard enough, but I'm also sick of the same post atop the page for almost a week), so here's a short one. The first number is the one most important to me – how many minutes each played this week. Because that's the number which will most likely impact Sunday's team selection at Birmingham.

Gerrard - 180 minutes. Captained England in both matches, 4-0 v Belarus and 3-1 at Switzerland. Did well in both, from central midfield in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, and cleverly assisted on Adam Johnson's goal against the Swiss.
Johnson - 180 minutes. Also played 90 minutes in both of England's matches. Was far better against the Swiss.
Skrtel - 180 minutes. 1-0 v Macedonia and 1-0 at Russia. Two matches, two clean sheets.
Meireles - 180 minutes. Played 90 minutes in both of Portugal's underwhelming matches – 4-4 v Cyprus and 0-1 at Norway. Scored Portugal's second with a long-range left-footed strike against Cyprus.
Jovanovic - 154 minutes. Played the full match in a 3-0 win at Faroe Islands and 64 minutes in the 1-1 draw v Slovenia.
Agger - 90 minutes. Played all of Denmark's lone match against Iceland yesterday, a 1-0 win.
Poulsen - 90 minutes. Also played all of the win against Iceland, captaining the side.
Kuyt - 68 minutes. Scored the opener from the spot and set up two of Huntelaar's three goals in Friday's 5-0 win at San Marino before being substituted for the returning van Nistelrooy in the 68th, then injured his shoulder attempting a bicycle kick in training over the weekend. Will be out for approximately four weeks. Sigh.
Torres - 57 minutes. Scored twice in Spain's 4-0 win at Liechtenstein on Friday, then thankfully taken off before the hour mark. Was an unused substitute in Spain's trip to Argentina yesterday. That's right, Spain went to Argentina. I hope the money was worth it.
Reina - 45 minutes. Started the first half against Argentina, and it wasn't one to remember, conceding three goals in Spain's 1-4 loss. There was little to be done about the first two – both beating Spain's "offside trap" – but the third will make the blooper reel: slipping when attempting a clearance to allow Tevez a tap-in. Yes, that godforsaken gremlin.
Lucas - 45 minutes. Started the first half and scored the first goal in Brazil's 3-0 unofficial friendly victory over Barca's B-team yesterday. Mano Menezes as Brazil's manager is evidently very good for Lucas.

I'm furious about Kuyt's injury – naturally – although at least it's a position where Liverpool has a modicum of depth in Maxi, Babel, Pacheco, and Cole if necessary. The only match where he'll assuredly be missed is against the Mancs. I'm glad four different players scored (although Kuyt was one of them). I worry about the four who played two full games – especially Meireles, who's yet to feature for Liverpool, and wonder if that much action will preclude him from Sunday's match. I don't worry about Reina's performance against Argentina, simply because he's one of the strongest personalities in football and it comes with the territory. Like the mistake against Arsenal, it'll only push him harder. Finally, I'm thrilled Torres scored twice (and his first was a beauty), and am even happier he was substituted against Liechtenstein and didn't feature against Argentina, although a transatlantic plane ride for the sake of sitting on the bench is incredibly irritating.

All in all, we've had far worse international breaks.

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