11 May 2012

Liverpool at Swansea 05.13.12

10am ET, live in the US on Fuel TV.

I don't know if your cable service gets Fuel TV. Given Fox's ubiquity, chances are it does, especially if you have any extra sports packages. I suspect most providers bundle it with the same package Fox Soccer comes on. It is channel 618 on DirecTV.

Also, once again, I'd like to thank Fox for this "Survival Sunday," televising six matches with three others available via the internet and City v QPR on espn2. I can't remember the last time Liverpool's last match of the season aired on US television; it hasn't happened in the six seasons I've had this blog. Which is depressing, but nonetheless. Well done, Fox. For a change.

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (h) 11.05.11
8-0 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.09.90
0-0 (a; FA Cup) 01.06.90
3-0 Liverpool (h) 04.09.83

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 4-1 Chelsea (a); 1-2 Chelsea (n); 0-1 Fulham (h)
Swansea: 0-2 United (a); 4-4 Wolves (h); 1-1 Bolton (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 11; Bellamy 6; Gerrard 5; Carroll, Maxi 4; Adam, Henderson, Kuyt, Skrtel 2; Agger, Coates, Johnson, Shelvey 1
Swansea: Graham 11; Sinclair 8; Sigurdsson 7; Dyer 5; Allen 4; Lita, Moore 2; Orlandi, Routledge, Williams 1

Referee: Mark Halsey

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Carragher Skrtel Enrique
Kuyt Henderson Shelvey Downing
Carroll Suarez

I'd be surprised if there were many changes from Tuesday's XI. How do you change a team which beat the Champions League finalists 4-1? Dalglish, rightfully, has prioritized finishing as strongly as possible rather than baptizing multiple youngsters by fire.

At the very least, there should be no changes up front. There's no dropping Carroll after the last two matches, and it's infinitely regrettable that it took until May to see his partnership with Suarez fire so impressively. Whether Gerrard's fit or not, held out against Chelsea with a back problem, will dictate the midfield selection. I suspect he'll be protected at all costs, especially considering the Euros this summer, which should mean another chance for the promising Henderson-Shelvey pairing.

Maxi probably made his last start for Liverpool on Tuesday, so the flanks should comprise two from Downing, Kuyt, and Bellamy; Downing on one flank, Kuyt or Bellamy on the other, with Sterling coming off the bench in the second half again. Carragher will most likely start in defense again, putting him one match away from 700 appearances. Who'll be left out? As said before Chelsea, I wouldn't mind a Carragher-Coates pairing, if only to give Skrtel and Agger a deserved early summer, but chances are at least one of them will start. If Enrique's still carrying a knock, it'll be the same back four as against Chelsea. But I suspect he'll come back into the side with Skrtel or Agger – most likely the latter – making way.

As often happens with promoted sides who impress for the majority of the campaign, Swansea have suffered of late, winning just once in their last eight matches, falling from 8th in mid-March to their current 12th position, only ahead of Norwich and Stoke on goal difference.

Still – and I mean this as non-patronizingly as possible – 12th is a remarkable accomplishment. Even if Norwich and Stoke overtake the Swans on the last day, 14th would be a remarkable accomplishment. Like Blackpool last season, Swansea have done it 'their own way,' with attacking, possession football, but will stay up where Blackpool immediately dropped back to the Championship. Brendan Rodgers has done a fantastic job; only Pardew's accomplishments with Newcastle should prevent him from getting the manager of the year award. And, as Dalglish said in his pre-match press conference, some credit has to go to Roberto Martinez for building the foundation.

Sigurdsson has been a revelation since joining on loan in January. Allen, Gower, and Britton are clever midfielders capable of monopolizing the ball. Dyer and Sinclair have speed to burn up and down the flanks, Vorm makes multiple unlikely saves, and Danny Graham simply finishes chances. Swansea will almost assuredly stick with their familiar 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation, with Vorm; Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Taylor; Gower or Britton, Sigurdsson, Allen; Dyer, Graham, Sinclair.

Tuesday's match was the perfect Anfield finale, thoroughly beating – nay, embarrassing – a hated foe with vengeful, comprehensive finishing. Here's hoping for a similar sign-off away from home, getting revenge on one of the many clubs who held Liverpool to an frustrating home draw earlier in the season.

No comments :