05 January 2012

Liverpool v Oldham 01.06.12

3pm ET, not live on TV in the US anywhere in the world. The whole world, apparently. So there probably won't be streams and there probably won't be an OYB match review either. Yes, this sucks. I'm sorry. Looks like there will be streams after all. Complaining on the internet works again. Check the usual locales.

Last four head-to-head:
3-0 Liverpool (a) 01.15.94
2-1 Liverpool (h) 10.16.93
2-3 Oldham (a) 05.05.93
1-0 Liverpool (h) 04.10.93

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-3 City (a); 3-1 Newcastle (a); 0-0 Wigan (a)
Oldham: 1-1 Chesterfield (a); 3-2 Notts County (h); 0-1 Hartlepool (h)

Goalscorers (all competitions):
Liverpool: Suarez 8; Bellamy 5; Maxi 4; Carroll 3; Adam, Gerrard, Skrtel 2; Henderson, Johnson, Kelly, Kuyt 1
Oldham: Kuqi 13; Reid 5; Simpson, Wesolowski 4; Adeyemi, Smith 3; Furman, Morais, Scapuzzi, Taylor 2; Clarke, Diamond, Lee, Mellor 1

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Don't think he's ever done a Liverpool match. Only began infrequently refereeing Premier League games in 2010-11 (twice last season, six times this season).

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Carragher Coates Aurelio
Spearing Henderson
Kuyt Shelvey Maxi

Dalglish deployed surprisingly strong line-ups in the early rounds of the Carling Cup, but those rounds came away from Anfield, when games weren't being played every three or four days, and when Liverpool weren't dealing with injuries and suspensions to key players.

The back four will undoubtedly change for the first time since facing Chelsea in the Carling Cup, with Kelly, Carragher, and Coates almost assured of starting spots. Left-back continues to be an issue; it's one of those rare periods where Fabio Aurelio's actually fit, so he'll probably start, but Liverpool could also use Kelly and Flanagan at the full-back spots, as often happened in the run-in last season.

One of Gerrard, Adam, and Henderson should join Shelvey and Spearing in midfield, unless Liverpool play two up top. Which seems a less likely possibility. Dalglish will want at least one experienced midfielder in there, no matter the opposition (and yes, Henderson counts as an experienced midfielder, at least for this discussion). Gerrard still might not be fit enough to start, and Liverpool have a far-more-important Carling Cup semifinal on Wednesday. Adam's been dire for the last three matches. So I'm guessing Henderson. Hesitantly. As with all the other guesses here.

Predictions for the flanks are just as speculative. Maxi seemingly has to start, left out of the last two. Kuyt, surprisingly poor this season, needs game time, while an ineffective Downing could probably use a break. There could be a reserve-team curveball, with the likes of Sterling or Suso making a debut, but Dalglish will probably stick with the fatigued devil he knows. Kuyt could also start up top, either on his own or with Carroll, but I think yet another match for the misfiring giant is most likely. Bellamy will probably start on the bench with an eye on Wednesday because of his rickety, one-game-a-week knees.

Oldham are currently 14th in League One. After losing three of the first five matches of the season, the Latics have hovered around mid-table for the last few months, bouncing between 12th and 16th since September. They've won just one league match since mid-November, beating Notts County on New Year's Eve, but also successfully held league leaders Charlton on Charlton's ground four matches ago. Since that home win against Chesterfield on November 19, Oldham have won one, drawn three and lost two against League One opponents.

In the "Players You May Have Heard Of" Department, Shefki Kuqi, who's been playing since World War I, is Oldham's top scorer by some distance and will start up front. Ex-Liverpool reserve keeper Dean Bouzanis is the back-up for the Latics, and will probably be planted on the bench. Ex-Chelsea academy player Felipe Morais, who's spent the majority of his career in Scotland, will feature on the wings. Two Italian youngsters on loan from City, including Mancini's kid, probably won't play. That's all I got. I won't embarrass us both by pretending to know more.

Liverpool have history with disappointing performances in domestic cups, notably against Reading, Barnsley, and Burnley in recent years. Not to mention last season's nadir against Northampton, which has far too many frightening parallels with this match: at Anfield, with a second-string lineup expected, against almost-unknown (at least incredibly unfamiliar) lower-league opposition, not televised, and with players' focus understandably most likely elsewhere. The main difference is that Dalglish is in charge of this side. As the last year's proven, that's a fairly large difference.

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