17 December 2010

Liverpool v Fulham 12.18.10

12:30pm ET, live in the US on FSC

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 04.11.10
1-3 Fulham (a) 10.31.09
1-0 Liverpool (a) 04.04.09
0-0 (h) 11.22.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Utrecht (h); 1-3 Newcastle (a); 3-0 Villa (h)
Fulham: 0-0 Sunderland (h); 1-2 Arsenal (a); 1-1 Brum (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Torres 5; Gerrard, Kuyt, Maxi 3; Kyrgiakos, Ngog 2; Johnson, Babel, Skrtel 1
Fulham: Dempsey 5; Dembele, Hangeland, Kamara 2; Davies, Etuhu, Gera, Zamora 1

Referee: Andre Marriner

Guess at a line-up:

Johnson Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Kuyt Meireles Lucas Maxi
Ngog Torres

Back to the A-team. Ten changes are likely, with only stand-in captain Skrtel keeping his starting place. Hopefully, the visit of Roy Hodgson's former team will coax Liverpool out of its shell, and the manager will devise tactics with some attacking ambition. That and this match will take place within the comforts of Anfield, where Liverpool's at least been marginally respectable this season.

Because of the settled line-up and paint-by-numbers tactics, these previews have become perfunctory. Gerrard's back in training, but looks to be only fit enough for the bench at best. Hodgson's playing coy after embarrassingly going back on his declaration about Torres in the mid-week match, but it looks like the debate over breaking up the Lucas/Meireles pairing so the captain can play his preferred position is on hold for now. Carragher and Agger are still injured. Hodgson somehow still believes Konchesky is better than Aurelio. 4-4-2 is evidently still the way forward. The only concern is about Ngog, but Hodgson seemed fairly certain the striker would be available despite needing stitches a week ago. If he's not fit, I'd expect Babel to partner Torres, but otherwise, as has been the case for the last three or four league matches, the team basically writes itself.

Like Liverpool, Hodgson's former club still can't win away from home. Only outside the relegation zone on goal difference, Fulham haven't taken all three points on the road all season, with five draws and three losses. Their last away league win – their only away league win of the season – came on the first day of the '09-10 campaign, at Portsmouth.

Fulham are also without two of their main threats – Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele – because of long-term injuries. American Clint Dempsey has attempted to pick up the slack, with five goals this campaign, while striker (and frequent perma-crock) Andrew Johnson should be available. Diomansy Kamara usually starts up front in Fulham's 4-5-1, but Johnson – especially given his history with Everton – may get the nod.

As against Villa and West Ham, on paper, this is a match Liverpool should win. Home form simply hasn't been the problem; Liverpool have taken 17 of an available 24 points at Anfield. But if Liverpool show the same amount of ambition as against Utrecht on Wednesday, we could be in for a long day. Despite their poor record, Fulham have a knack for draws, having finished 10 their 17 matches level. Four of those draws have been 0-0, while another four have ended 1-1. Chances are, there will be few goals in this game. Which necessitates that Liverpool will actually need to go searching for some.

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