04 November 2011

Liverpool v Swansea 11.05.11

11am ET, not live in the US. Delayed on Fox Soccer Plus at 3pm ET. It's FoxSoccer.tv or streams.

Last four head-to-head:
8-0 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.09.90
0-0 (a; FA Cup) 01.06.90
3-0 Liverpool (h) 04.09.83
3-0 Liverpool (a) 09.18.82

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 West Brom (a); 2-1 Stoke (a); 1-1 Norwich (h)
Swansea: 3-1 Bolton (h); 2-2 Wolves (a); 1-3 Norwich (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 4; Adam, Carroll 2; Bellamy, Gerrard, Henderson, Skrtel 1
Swansea: Graham 4; Sinclair 3; Allen 2; Dyer, Lita, Williams 1

Referee: Phil Dowd

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Henderson Lucas Adam Downing
Carroll Suarez

Same as against West Brom, please.

At home, Liverpool are likely to stick with the 4-2-2-2 (or 4-3-3 or 2-3-2-3 or whatever) we saw against West Brom. Carroll and Suarez will remain the front pairing, with Lucas and Adam in midfield as Gerrard's still injured, and Johnson and Enrique providing width and overlaps from full-back.

There seem only a couple of possible changes. Downing hasn't had the best of spells recently, struggling for form and influence, summed up by his barely-defended cannon off the foot of the post in injury time on Saturday. Bellamy could be a straight swap, with Maxi and Kuyt as less likely options. Kuyt could also reclaim his place from Henderson, although the young Englishman did well against both Stoke and West Brom.

And there's the elephant in the room: whether Carragher will be fit, immediately restored to the starting XI, or whether we'll get to see Skrtel and Agger for a second-straight match. There were two interesting relevant pieces on Liverpool's defense this week: Dan Kennett analyzed Liverpool's record with different center-back pairings over at The Tomkins Times and Noel from Liverpool Offside wondered whether Liverpool's deep defensive line will remain constant no matter Carragher's inclusion or exclusion. Both are recommended reading.

Like Blackpool last season, Swansea have become the new neutral's favorite by combining aesthetically-pleasing football with a heavy underdog status. I doubt I'll have to remind how much Liverpool suffered against the likes of Blackpool last season, losing both fixtures under both Hodgson and Dalglish. Swansea can be exposed, caught out on the counter attack because of their preference for going forward. But Liverpool can also be exposed, as Sunderland, Stoke, Spurs, United, and Norwich have proven.

Swansea have loads of quick, deft players who can cause a static backline problems: striker Danny Graham, wingers Sinclair and Dyer, and Joe Allen in midfield. Graham's scored in Swansea's the last four matches. That Sinclair and Dyer can get down the flanks and whip in crosses should have both Johnson and Enrique very wary. Stephen Dobbie is the lone injury concern now that Kemy Agustien is fit, but Agustein's unlikely to start with Allen, Gower, and Britton in fine form.

For all the deserved compliments for how Swansea have come up, dancing with what brought them to Premiership, the Swans have truly struggled away from the Liberty Stadium. Still winless on their travels, their lone away point came against Wolves two weeks ago. The natural disclaimer is that their other away matches came on fairly difficult grounds: against City, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Norwich.

Liverpool can't fall into the trap of expecting a promoted side to lie down at Anfield, which seemed to be the case against Norwich two weeks back. Increasingly frustrated and impatient when the second goal wasn't coming, Norwich made Liverpool pay, stealing off in the night with an undeserved point after Holt headed Carragher, Johnson, Reina, and the ball into the net.

Patience will be crucial tomorrow. Swansea's possession football means Liverpool will look to be direct more often than not, carving Swansea open on the counter rather than pummeling them into submission. Which will require Liverpool's nullifying defense to be as secure as against West Brom, using the clean sheet as the platform to get the needed victory. City's win over Swansea in the first match of season provides the template: after cagily holding out for an hour, with David matching Goliath step for step, City finally put Swansea to the sword, scoring four in the last half-hour as the away side tired.

Patience, then the sword. And, as often repeated, the utter necessity of converting one's chances.

1 comment :

Edward said...

Here's hoping Dags stays fit. There's no doubt the team performs on another level w/ him in it, as you noted last year (in perhaps my favorite titled post: Daniel Agger, Danish Swagger).