29 October 2010

Liverpool at Bolton 10.31.10

12pm ET, live in the US on FSC. Daylight Saving Time ends a week earlier in the UK, which is why the game is at noon instead of 11am.

Last four head-to-head:
2-0 Liverpool (h) 01.30.10
3-2 Liverpool (a) 08.29.09
3-0 Liverpool (h) 12.26.08
2-0 Liverpool (a) 11.15.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Blackburn (h); 0-0 Napoli (a); 0-2 Everton (a)
Bolton: 1-1 Wigan (a); 2-1 Stoke (h); 1-1 West Brom (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Gerrard 3; Kyrgiakos, Torres 2; Kuyt, Ngog 1
Bolton: Elmander 5; K Davies 2; Blake, Chung-Yong Lee, Klasnic, Knight, Petrov 1

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Guess at a line-up:
Carragher Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Meireles Lucas
Maxi Gerrard Cole

If Agger and Johnson are ruled out, as Hodgson seems to have done, then same as against Blackburn, please.

Which means that Carra would continue invoking the ghost of Carlos Alberto (so close to writing that with a straight face), Kyrgiakos and Skrtel would stay at center-back, and Konchesky would still be preferred to Aurelio on the left. Incidentally, Kyrgiakos made his debut at Bolton last season. Partly at fault for both of Bolton's goals, with Liverpool needing to come back for a 3-2 win, the big Greek still demonstrated some of the qualities which have made him a contender to play every match. He's become a revelation on set plays, the first consistent threat since Hyypia left. Although calling Soto the second coming of Tony Adams or Jack Charlton (or John Terry!) might be going a little overboard.

And as against Blackburn, the front six should write itself. Specifically, Poulsen cannot come straight back into the line-up after the performance Lucas and Meireles put in last Sunday. Muamba has been Gerrard's shadow in recent meetings between the sides, which could be an argument for deploying the captain deeper, but if it ain't broke, etc. It'll be the job of Cole, Maxi, and Meireles (to a certain extent) to push forward, supplementing the attack if Gerrard's closely marked, to ensure Torres doesn't spend another 90 minutes in complete isolation.

Yet there's always the worry as to how often Liverpool will push forward away from Anfield under this manager. As more than a few have pointed out, Sunday will mark the 442nd day since Hodgson last won an away league match. Liverpool have routinely set up differently on the road, more content to spoil the opposition and hope to nick a goal on the counter, with last Thursday's match at Napoli the "best" example of the tactic. But after the improvement shown against Blackburn, and still fiercely needing points to rise out of the relegation zone (let alone the bottom half of the table), one would hope Liverpool continue to push on, and replicate the tactics that got the team its first league win since the end of August.

In addition, while Owen Coyle's Bolton is much easier on the eyes than the previous clogging incarnations under Allardyce and Megson, it's still a side that loves the long ball at times, which could undo a deep rearguard at the drop of a hat. Kevin Davies' elbows still have a starring role and Muamba still puts in "rugged" tackles – most recently against Wigan's James McCarthy. But with wingers like Chung-Yong Lee and Martin Petrov, and striker Elmander finally finding Premiership form, Bolton can actually play football.

Eighth in the table, three points ahead of Liverpool, Coyle's stuck with a settled 4-4-2, with Cahill and Knight as center-backs, Steinsson and Robinson at full-back, Muamba and Stuart Holden in the middle, Petrov and Lee on the flanks, and Davies and Elmander up front. That team's started Bolton's last three matches, and with no new injury concerns or suspensions, it'll probably be the same on Sunday.

Obviously, a win is crucial – all matches are crucial thanks to Liverpool's current league placement – but the performance against Blackburn was just as encouraging as the result. Keep that up, and results will follow. Otherwise, chances are we won't have seen a light at the end of a tunnel, but yet another false dawn.


Anonymous said...

If i remember correctly, 2 years ago Liverpool were top of the premiership and having drawn against West Ham were booed. Yes booed at Anfield! Now here we are after "crushing" the Breathtaking Brilliant Blackburn there is suddenly a feel good factor and talk of Torres getting his confidence back and all.Balderdash! Beating Bolton-at worst a draw- should be a formality, something that shouldn't be discussed.

Earl said...

Please, please, please no Poulsen.