19 September 2012

Liverpool at BSC Young Boys 09.20.12

1:00pm ET, live in the US on FSC

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 1-1 Hearts (h), 1-0 Hearts (a); 3-0 Gomel (h), 1-0 Gomel (a)
Young Boys: 0-2 Midtjylland (h), 3-0 Midtjylland (a); 3-0 Kalmar (h), 0-1 Kalmar (a); 0-1 Zimbru (a), 1-0 Zimbru (h)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Sunderland (a); 0-2 Arsenal (h); 1-1 Hearts (h)
Young Boys: 5-1 Wettswil-Bonstetten (a); 2-1 Lucerne (a); 0-2 Midtjylland (h)

Goalscorers (Europa League):
Liverpool: Borini, Downing, Gerrard, Johnson, Suarez 1
Young Boys: Bobadilla 2; Costanzo, Farnerud, Frey, Mayuka, Raimondi 1

Referee: Michael Koukoulakis (GRE)

Guess at a line-up
Flanagan Coates Carragher Enrique
Henderson Şahin
Downing Suso Assaidi

Simply put, most who'll be involved on Sunday against Manchester United should not be involved tomorrow.

Which appears to be the case, according to the Liverpool Echo. Gerrard, Suarez, Johnson, Kelly, Skrtel, Agger, Allen, and Reina are all staying in Liverpool, with Pacheco, Suso, Yesil, Morgan, Wisdom, Coady, Flanagan and Robinson in the traveling party, if not the squad.

However, unmentioned are at least two first-team players who should play, even if they're scheduled to start against United on Sunday. Both Enrique and Şahin need match fitness, Enrique to recover from his long-standing knee problem, Şahin to get back in the habit of playing regularly and adjust to his role in the Liverpool system. Both could feature against United if they play well tomorrow.

We could also see Borini, Downing, Shelvey, and Sterling. I truly hope Sterling will remain planted firmly on the bench, for all the burn-out reasons we've mentioned over and over. Shelvey's in a similar situation, ideally rested, which would give either Suso or Pacheco a chance in the attacking midfield role. But Downing's likely to start on the right, while Borini could do with further match practice as well. Opening day against West Brom was the only league match where the Italian lasted the full 90 minutes; he only played 54 and 64 minutes in the last two fixtures, notably misfiring in both – although his efforts against Sunderland suggest he's getting closer to finding form. As much as Liverpool need to bring more young players through due to the lack of squad depth, I'd still rather Borini start instead of Adam Morgan or Samed Yesil. Rodgers' highlighted Yesil, saying "Yesil will certainly be fast-tracked. He will be involved in the Europa League game." Whether that involvement means he'll play or just that he'll be involved in the squad remains to be seen; if Borini doesn't start, Morgan seems more likely because he's started a senior match before.

With Skrtel and Agger missing, Carragher and Coates appear definite starters in central defense. Flanagan's also fairly certain with both Kelly and Johnson back on Merseyside. Finally, we should finally seem Oussama Assaidi make his debut, fit from the injury that has kept him out until now and available for the Europa League group stage after sitting out qualifying. More than any other, I've high hopes for the Moroccan; Liverpool badly need another wide forward/winger to step up so Liverpool aren't wholly reliant on the likes of Sterling and Borini.

BSC Young Boys are eight matches in the Swiss Super League season, which began in mid-July, winning three, drawing three, and losing two, currently fifth out of ten teams. They haven't finished lower than third since 2006-07.

Liverpool assistant manager Colin Pascoe says Young Boys play 4-3-3, while Football-Lineups.com has Young Boys using a 4-1-4-1 in the last 10 fixtures. The vagaries of modern formation notation.

The starting XI in its last league match, on September 2 at Lucerne, was Wölfli; Zverotic, Nef, Veskovac, Lecjaks; Spycher; Gonzalez, Costanzo, Farnerud, Scheneuwly; Bobadilla. Argentinean Raul Bobadilla is Young Boys' top scorer in both league and Europa League qualifying, joining the club in the January transfer window. Christoph Spycher's been around forever, a Swiss international from 2003-2010, able to play at full-back or as a defensive midfielder. England fans may remember defender Elsad Zverotic, who scored in last year's final Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro, a 2-2 draw (that was where Rooney kicked a Montenegrin player, getting himself suspended for the first two matches of the Euros). Young Boys recently sold the player I'm most familiar with – Emmanuel Mayuka, star of Zambia's African Cup of Nations win last year – to Southampton. Honestly, the only time I've seen the club play was when they faced Tottenham in Champions League qualifying in August 2010; chances are only 4 or 5 players who played then are likely to feature: Wölfli, Spycher, Constanzo, Schneuwly, and Swiss-English right-back Scott Sutter (who'll probably be kept out of the side by Zverotic). Yes. I realize this is even less helpful than my "scouting reports" for Gomel or Hearts. Such are the dangers of Europa League opposition.

Regardless of Liverpool's current struggles, this will be one of BSC Young Boys' biggest matches of the season, if not the biggest. Unlike in the league – for the last two or three years now – Liverpool's name still inspires awe in European competition. Awe, but not terror, evident in the matches against Gomel and Hearts, where both looked to get at Liverpool, especially in the home legs. Liverpool are a vulnerable giant, and – no slight intended – players can make a name for themselves by putting another Lilliputian arrow in Gulliver's back. No matter the personnel used, this competition is the first chance for the club to begin rebuilding its reputation on the continental stage. And developing the young players who'll add depth to Liverpool's shallow squad is more important.

1 comment :

Ryan said...

Thanks for the preview, Nate. As a request, could you do a piece on Jonjo Shelvey. I'm really not sure where I stand on him. He does pop up from time to time as a goal threat, but it seems to me over the course of 90 minutes, his lack of pace and lack of positioning are worrisome.

Thanks for the blog and all the work you do.