29 September 2010

Liverpool at Utrecht 09.30.10

1pm ET, live in the US on GolTV

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Sunderland (h); 2-2 Northampton [2-4 on penalties] (h); 2-3 United (a)
Utrecht: 0-1 AZ (a); 1-1 De Graafschap [4-3 on penalties] (h); 3-2 VVV-Venlo (h)

Group Stage so far:
Liverpool: 4-1 Steaua (h)
Utrecht: 0-0 Napoli (a)

Goalscorers (Europe):
Liverpool: Ngog 5; Babel, Cole, Gerrard, Kuyt, Lucas 1
Utrecht: van Wolfswinkel 4; Asare, Maguire, Mertens, Silberbauer 1

Referee: Duarte Gomes (POR)

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Kelly
Meireles Lucas
Kuyt Cole Jovanovic

Hodgson's named a strong squad for tomorrow's match; only Gerrard and Agger are missing from the "first XI" – if we can say that Agger's still a first-team regular. LFC.tv journalist Paul Eaton wrote that the Dane – the de facto left back with both Konchesky and Aurelio injured – is suffering from a groin injury, while Gerrard's simply rested.

In lieu of the line-up revealed by either Hodgson or someone in the know on the internet, the above is the best guess I've got from the 20-man squad. Kelly seemingly has to play on the left. Either Skrtel or Kyrgiakos will partner Carragher, and I'd imagine Hodgson keeps his preferred pairing. I'll be furious if Kuyt doesn't start against his first professional club, even if he's recently back from a shoulder injury. And I'm begging: please no Poulsen. Give Lucas a chance and play Meireles in his favored position.

If Torres is included in the traveling party, it seems certain that he'll start, meaning that Liverpool's top goal-scorer in this competition will probably begin on the bench. Even after recent complaints about the lack of width and impotence in attack, I doubt Hodgson will deploy a 4-4-2 with both Torres and Ngog up top. But it's definitely within the realm of possibility, and if it's the case, I expect Jovanovic will make way for the young Frenchman.

Babel could also start on the left, either at the expense of Jovanovic or Cole, but after his performance against Northampton, a substitute appearance seems the most likely option. That both Babel and Eccleston, able to play as strikers, are in the squad does suggest that Liverpool has enough depth to start both Ngog and Torres. Also, that Eccleston's included but Pacheco isn't comes as a bit of a surprise. These are the games where we expected Dani to get some appearances; I assume his exclusion is fall-out from last Wednesday's calamity.

Utrecht entered this competition at the same stage as Liverpool, beating Luzern and Celtic to qualify for the group stage. Striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, notable for his name, four goals in Europa League qualifying (including a hat-trick against Celtic), and link to Liverpool during the transfer window, is Utrecht's biggest threat. He's currently joint-top scorer in the Eredivisie, along with another supposed target, Ola Toivonen. Van Wolfswinkel was replaced at halftime during Utrecht's weekend game at AZ Alkmaar, despite being a goal down, but I can't find any suggestion that it was because of injury.

This is the only competition where Liverpool's gotten the right results, with five wins from five matches, and arguably played to their potential on a few occasions. That the club's now out of the Carling Cup increases the Europa League's importance. Two wins to start the group stage will put Liverpool in the pole position for qualification with games against the toughest opponent, Napoli, to come in the next two matches. But as we've seen so far this season, we can't assume Liverpool will take maximum points off anyone. Despite form, Liverpool are still a marquee name, and Utrecht will do their utmost to take a massive scalp in front of their fans, in what will be one of the biggest European games the club's ever played.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a 4-3-3 line up, with an ambitious attacking three of Babel, Torres and Kuyt, but we all know that it's an away game and it won't happen.

Hodgson's not known for his attacking intent, and if only Kevin Keagan was given the trust to thrust Liverpool on.

Anything less than a 4-4-1-1 and Liverpool probably will have a hard time finding inroads within Stadion Galgenwaard.

Ash said...

I noticed your tweet that had Poulsen in the starting line up alongside Lucas. I think that gives a lot more balance to the side and Joe will make it a more fluid line up going forwards. Will be interesting to see how he links up with Torres, but should be an easy win.

nate said...

That rumored line-up is from This Is Anfield, by way of LFC Globe (ran out of characters in the retweet). Worth noting it's still just a rumor, and I've seen Meireles in place of Jovanovic (with Cole moving out to one of the flanks) suggested by an ITK on RAWK.

We'll find out in less than an hour either way. Line-ups should be confirmed in the next 30-45 minutes.