20 January 2012

Liverpool at Bolton 01.21.12

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

Last four head-to-head:
3-1 Liverpool (h) 08.27.11
2-1 Liverpool (h) 01.01.11
1-0 Liverpool (a) 10.31.10
2-0 Liverpool (h) 01.30.10

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Stoke (h); 1-0 City (a); 5-1 Oldham (h)
Bolton: 2-0 Macclesfield (h); 0-3 United (a); 2-2 Macclesfield (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 5; Bellamy 4; Adam, Carroll, Gerrard, Maxi, Skrtel 2; Henderson, Johnson 1
Bolton: Klasnic 7; Eagles 3; K Davies, Ngog, Reo-Coker 2; Boyata, M Davies, Muamba, Petrov, Ricketts 1

Referee: Kevin Friend

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Henderson Gerrard
Downing Shelvey Maxi

The same questions and concerns continue to be the focus. Where are the goals coming from and who'll comprise Liverpool's stuttering attack?

Chances are that the three at the back system so lauded after Stoke will be shelved. Liverpool's options are partnering Kuyt or Bellamy with Carroll, or reverting to the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3/4-1-4-1 system (whatever you want to call it; five midfielders, one striker) we've seen most often during Suarez's suspension, especially since Spearing's likely to miss out again.

Agger's should be available, while Dalglish didn't mention Maxi when discussing injuries in the pre-match press conference. Spearing remains questionable, Lucas is obviously absent. In theory, Liverpool have to choose three from four to make up central midfield, and two from four to fill the flanks. Gerrard, Henderson, Adam or Shelvey; Downing, Bellamy, Kuyt or Maxi.

Adam remains the primary midfield scapegoat, disappointing over the last month after marked improvement prior to Lucas' injury, while Shelvey seems one of the few dynamic runners who can help shake Liverpool's attacking malaise. Bellamy will be more valuable next week when Liverpool face City on Wednesday and United next Saturday. I'd imagine he'll be kept on the bench in a "break glass if needed" box, with an eye on the upcoming cup ties. Both Kuyt and Downing have also underperformed almost all season, but with both struggling, it's a catch-22 damned whatever you do situation. Somebody's got to play.

In 19th, a point (and nine goals) from safety, this will be Bolton's first league match since selling Gary Cahill. The defender was left out of Wanderers' last league match, a 0-3 loss at United, which gives us an idea of how Coyle will line up until a replacement (likely to be American Tim Ream) is signed. With on-loan Dedrick Boyata out of favor, Bolton's back line was Steinsson-Wheater-Knight-Ricketts, with Reo-Coker and Muamba in midfield, Eagles and Petrov on the flanks, and Mark Davies behind Ngog as a lone striker (a combination which has started the last two league fixtures). Klasnic or Kevin Davies' elbows may replace the former Liverpool striker, while Jaaskelainen should be fit again. Despite the myth's about Owen Coyle's aesthetics, Bolton are still Bolton: burly defenders, combative terrier midfielders, crossing-specialist wingers, and awkward, aerially-effective strikers.

Liverpool have won ten consecutive matches against Bolton, coinciding with the end of Allardyce's tenure. The reverse fixture saw one of Liverpool's most comprehensive performances of the season: first goals for Henderson and Adam, wholly unthreatened until Klasnic's cheap late consolation, and one of just two league matches this season where Liverpool's scored three. Meanwhile, Bolton have conceded three or more in eight of their 21 league fixtures and have kept just two clean sheets.

Maybe this will be the week the dam breaks. If only so we all can stop writing (and hoping) that maybe this will be the week the dam breaks.


Keith said...

I certainly hope you're wrong about Bellamy being left on the bench so he can be saved for the CC and FA Cup ties, but signs sure point to you being correct. It looks like the CC and FA Cup have taken precedence over nabbing an eminently winnable Champions League spot, and I have to say I find that pretty disappointing.

Mike Georger said...

Bolton have the worst defensive record in the league and just sold their (allegedly) elite defender. If we cannot beat them without Bellamy, we're not getting fourth place anyway.

Thing about the cups as a focus is this: the race for fifth is so tight that winning the League Cup will be a massive relief because no matter what it guarantees European participation next year. Which guarantees extra match day and TV revenue.

We need to hope that Spurs finish third because then that guarantees that either Chelsea or Arsenal (most likely) are in the Europa League. With City and United there this year, this will make it less of a joke in terms of drawing players.

I have zero problem with prioritizing the League Cup right now. It should absolutely be our focus for the next week.

Bellamy cannot start tomorrow.

nate said...

Yeah, what Georger said. That plus nearly six years since LFC have won a trophy, with an advantage going into second leg of semi, gives Carling Cup precedence. Not to mention relative strength of the three opponents.

keith said...

Mike, nate -

My impression from reading swiss ramble is that the extra money generated from the Europa League is rather small. Not neglible, to be sure, but even a run all the way through the EL, iirc, doesn't even generate half as much as a CL group stage exit.

In terms of drawing players, I'm not convinced. I mean, having EL is likely more attractive than no EL, but that's balanced by a more congested fixture list, a possible detriment to getting back to the CL.

I can't argue with your guys' aesthetic feelings about finally winning some silverware, though. You guys have been fans for longer than me, as I am a relatively recent convert, so I'd guess you value a Wembley appearance more than I do.

Apologies for any spelling errors, as I'm posting from my phone.

nate said...

Honestly, it's more for the trophy than the Europa League. It's been far too long.

May regret saying this, but I'm not worried about EL qualifying. England will probably get six slots next season; only having 5th + Brum (Carling Cup), Stoke (FA Cup), Fulham (Fair Play league) was a rarity. And Liverpool should get top 6, even on this form.

Admittedly, Europa League is negligible when it comes to finances (Swiss Ramble is never wrong), and it's certainly not the CL when it comes to prestige, but the cachet of being in Europe goes a bit of a way in helping transfer recruitment.

And as for top 4, to echo Georger again, if Bellamy's inclusion is the difference between a win and loss or draw tomorrow, Liverpool won't get fourth and don't deserve fourth anyway.

CSD said...

I definitely see Dalgish putting priority on the match with City. The club is one match from getting back to Wembley and it's been far too long. The League Cup isn't the most prestigious thing in the world, but a season with A trophy is better than a season with NO trophies and that's what we've had for several years. I'd like to see us do a double and nab that and the FA Cup.

Anonymous said...

There is no way that the Europa League will help with recruitment of players, that statement is ridiculous. Any liverpool recruit would be playing at a decent, at worst, european team or a foreign team that no one has any experience with The reality is, anyone up to the standards of 4th place in the PL will already be playing Europa League football. Eden Hazard was playing in the CL this season. Telling him that we've got the Europa League going for us is laughable. Not that hes a realistic target, but its an example. Without CL football, you dont get top notch players. I'd be surprised to see us get a single player in January worth anything and more than 2 in the summer with actual present value, not predicted value.

nate said...

Apropos of nothing, why does it seem like some fans care more about transfer windows than the actual football?