26 August 2011

Liverpool v Bolton 08.27.11

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

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (h) 01.01.11
1-0 Liverpool (a) 10.31.10
2-0 Liverpool (h) 01.30.10
3-2 Liverpool (h) 08.29.09

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Exeter (a); 2-0 Arsenal (a); 1-1 Sunderland (h)
Bolton:2-1 Macclesfield (h); 2-3 City (h); 4-0 QPR (a)

Referee: Lee Probert

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Agger Enrique
Lucas Adam
Kuyt Suarez Downing

I imagine there will be few holdovers from the Exeter match, despite the strength of that line-up. If pressed, I'd guess that only Suarez, Adam, and Reina will start for the second consecutive match.

Other than Suarez's inclusion, it's basically the same team which beat Arsenal last week. Adding Suarez while swapping Kuyt for Henderson should strengthen the side. The ex-Sunderland midfielder's been in for some unfair criticism, slower to adapt than Adam, Enrique, or Downing – which shouldn't be a surprise given where the four currently are in their careers. But Kuyt offers more attacking fluency, even at Anfield against a bruising mid-table side, and he and Downing switched flanks to decent effect a week ago. Bolton's fullbacks – the doubtful Steinsson and Paul Robinson – should be there for the taking. Maxi could be a decent option as well, helping to stretch and unlock an often-compact Bolton defense, with Kuyt on the bench as a utility attacker. With Ngog's exit inevitable, Liverpool are lacking in reserve strikers at the moment, but after 90 minutes on Wednesday with Kuyt rested, the Dutchman seems much more likely than Rodriguez.

Call the formation whatever you want: 4-2-2-2 or 4-2-3-1. It's not incredibly important with the above personnel, especially in the front four. Carroll will drop deep, Suarez will roam across the width and breadth of the final third, Downing and whomever (probably Kuyt) will switch flanks. Ideally, both Enrique and Kelly – probably still in place of the recovering Johnson – will join the attack more often than either were allowed at the Emirates.

Owen Coyle's continued his ascent with Bolton, who were excellent in their first two games – rampant at QPR and unlucky to come away with nothing from hosting Mercenary City. Klasnic and Davies, particularly Davies, are the types of strikers who make me nervous when facing Liverpool's back line. Davies is all elbows, head, and shoulders, perpetually dangerous in the air (which Carragher, Agger, and Skrtel aren't), while Klasnic is one of those poachers who pops up with a bolt from absolutely nowhere when it's least excepted – i.e. his spectacular volley against City. That clip also shows the contributions of left-winger Petrov, who has the potential to give Kelly fits. If he's up for it. And it's usually impossible to tell if he'll be up for it until the whistle blows. Eagles, on the other flank, is another tricky winger happy to stay wide and deliver crosses. Finally, a midfield of Muamba and Reo Coker will be ubiquitously combative, to put it as nicely as possible – with the former likely to stick close to whichever forward drops deep – requiring Lucas and Adam to intelligently join the attack as they did against Arsenal.

As with Liverpool's last league opponents, injuries haven't been kind to Bolton, especially at the aforementioned fullback position. Steinsson is doubtful with a foot bruise, while Tyrone Mears, Sam Ricketts, and Marcos Alonso are all out. As is American Stuart Holden, still recovering from the ACL tear caused by Jonny Evans' completely hopeless haplessness.

I do worry about Liverpool's increasing reliance on its little Uruguayan. Suarez has three of Liverpool's six goals this season, and played a large part creating in the other three. The last time the Reds scored without Suarez on the pitch was in February against Sparta Prague, 17 games ago. At home against Bolton, a side that Liverpool's beaten in the last nine meetings and which hasn't won at Anfield since 2003 (in the League Cup), marks an excellent opportunity for others in the team to prove their importance.


Marlon said...

"The last time the Reds scored without Suarez on the pitch was in February against Sparta Prague, 17 games ago."

Yes, but how many games have they played without Saurez since then? Two against Braga?

nate said...

Too lazy/busy to look up actual minutes played, but it's not as if he's played every minute of games he's started as well. Been subbed off in five of his 14 starts, and subbed on twice. And then there's Europa League games, which you mentioned.

Small sample size, but still.