11am ET, live in the US on Fox Soccer Plus
Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 12.21.11
1-1 (h) 02.12.11
1-1 (a) 11.10.10
0-1 Wigan (a) 03.08.10
Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-3 QPR (a); 2-1 Stoke (h); 3-0 Everton (h)
Wigan: 1-1 West Brom (h); 1-1 Norwich (a); 0-2 Swansea (h)
Liverpool: Bellamy, Suarez 6; Gerrard 5; Carroll 3; Adam, Kuyt, Maxi, Skrtel 2; Coates, Henderson, Johnson 1
Wigan: Di Santo, Gomez 4; McArthur, Moses, Watson 3; Caldwell, Diame, Rodallega 2; Crusat 1
Referee: Lee Mason
Liverpool's bad luck charm in past campaigns, Mason did an excellent job in the away leg of the Carling Cup semi-final and Liverpool have won the three matches when he's been in charge this season.
Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Skrtel Coates Enrique
Henderson Gerrard Spearing Downing
While it hasn't been announced yet, rumor – an almost certainly accurate rumor from a typically correct source – is that Charlie Adam will miss the rest of the season after suffering what looked like a similar injury to the one which ruined Lucas' campaign. Bellamy, Agger, and Johnson are also all still out.
As for the other player who went off against QPR, Dalglish said that Kelly should be available, although target="blank">Steve Clarke hinted differently at the end of an interview primarily about Coates. Even if Kelly's fit, Coates should start, regardless of whether Carragher's available after starting the last three matches as well. And if Kelly's unavailable, Dalglish will have to choose between Flanagan and Carragher at right back. While Flanagan hasn't started since August, I truly hope Dalglish picks the former if it comes to that. Of course, the devil we know is frequently the "safer" option – safer obviously a relative term – especially since Liverpool had defended excellently in its last three matches until 13 minutes of utter madness on Wednesday.
Last time Liverpool faced Wigan – another frustrating, malignant draw – Suarez was the lone striker, with Maxi between the lines, Downing and Kuyt as inverted "wingers," and Adam and Henderson in midfield. Regardless of Adam's injury, I doubt we'll see similar tomorrow, and not just because that line-up led to zero goals. Primarily, Carroll should be restored to the line-up after being rested against QPR, hopefully returning Liverpool to the formation which led to wins over Stoke and Everton.
The two midfielders who missed the reverse fixture – Gerrard through injury, Spearing through suspension – look likely to start their fourth consecutive match, although there are obvious worries about Gerrard playing 90 minutes in four games over 11 days. Adam's injury should lead to more opportunities for Shelvey (I guess not loaning him out again was the right move), but not necessarily in a starting berth tomorrow. Henderson's still more likely to play on the right, and the flanks are still Liverpool's biggest question mark. Inverted wingers, with Kuyt or Maxi on the left and Downing on the right, as against Stoke and QPR? Or Downing wide on the left with Henderson tucked-in on the right, as against Everton? Your guess is as good as mine, and all this assumes Dalglish deploys a 4-4-2 rather than the 4-1-2-3/4-3-3 we saw in the first half against QPR.
Roberto Martinez has deployed five at the back on occasion this season, with Alcaraz, Caldwell, and Figeroua as a back-line and Boyce and Beausejour as wing-backs. That's a distinct possibility tomorrow, but the 4-4-1-1 used when these sides met in December seems more likely, the same formation used in Saturday's 1-1 draw with West Brom. That XI was Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Moses, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour; Maloney; Di Santo. Wigan's injury woes are limited to doubts over Rodallega, midfielder Dave Jones, and back-up keeper Pollitt.
Wigan are one of the few teams more goal-shy than Liverpool, with just 15 goals this season and with a top-scorer who has just four in the league. Martinez's side dominated West Brom at home a week ago but scored just once despite multiple chances, and ended up drawing when Scharner equalized with West Brom's lone shot on target. This may sound vaguely familiar.
In 19th, only off the bottom only on goal difference (right where QPR were prior to Wednesday's match), Wigan have one just once in their last 15 matches: a 2-1 win at Bolton five weeks ago, drawing seven and losing seven. The Latics have won just four matches all season: that win at Bolton, plus QPR at home in August, at Sunderland in November, and at West Brom in December.
Of course, that three of those four wins came away, combined with Liverpool's utterly abominable record against lower-table sides, doesn't bode especially well. And Liverpool haven't beaten Wigan in the last four attempts: a tepid 0-0 draw this season, two 1-1 draws (after taking the lead in both) last season, and an 0-1 loss at the DW Stadium in March 2010 which helped seal Benitez's fate.
Not only have Wigan been Liverpool's bogey side recently, every relegation contender has seemingly been Liverpool's bogey side this season. Liverpool's failings have been laid bare, repeatedly. And as everyone's aware, there is little time left to remedy them.