19 October 2012

Liverpool v Reading 10.20.12

10am ET, not live in the US (except on FoxSoccer2Go). So, streams it is.

Last four head-to-head:
1-2 Reading (h; FA Cup) 01.13.10
1-1 (a; FA Cup) 01.02.10
2-1 Liverpool (h) 03.15.08
1-3 Reading (a) 12.08.07

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 0-0 Stoke (h); 2-3 Udinese (h); 5-2 Norwich (a)
Reading: 2-2 Swansea (a); 2-2 Newcastle (h); 3-2 QPR (a)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 5; Gerrard, Şahin, Skrtel 1
Reading: Hunt, Pogrebnyak 2; Guthrie, Kebe, Le Fondre, Robson-Kanu 1

Referee: Roger East

This is Roger East's first season as a Select Group referee. He's never done a Liverpool match, and has only refereed two other Premiership matches: Swansea 2-2 Sunderland and Fulham 3-0 West Brom. Incidentally, he sent a player off in both of those matches.

Guess at a line-up:
Wisdom Skrtel Agger Johnson
Gerrard Allen
Suso Suarez Sterling

My apologies for the radio silence over the last week and a half but I figured yet another international break meant it was a good time for a vacation. Other than the usual "international breaks are awful, why won't players stop getting injured???" I see I didn't miss very much.

And it definitely was a less than successful international break. Borini fractured a bone in his foot, and will be out for the next three months. Reina tweaked his hamstring during the half-time warmup of Spain's match on Tuesday. Wisdom missed u19 duty because of a shoulder injury picked up against Stoke. Both Allen and Robinson picked up viruses this week, although both should be healthy tomorrow.

And that's not including all the Reds who *just* played. Suarez, Liverpool's lone first-team forward, travelled something like 6000 miles after playing in Bolivia's altitude, where Uruguay lost 1-4. Gerrard, Johnson, and Shelvey were forced to spend an extra day in Poland as Tuesday's match was delayed, only returning to Liverpool yesterday. Allen, Skrtel, and Agger played both matches for Wales, Slovakia, and Denmark. Şahin came on as a substitute in Friday's loss to Romania, then played the full 90 minutes in Tuesday's loss to Hungary, his first start for his country in 2014 World Cup qualifying. Henderson, Sterling, and Robinson were with the England u21s. Yesil played three games for Germany's u19s.

Have I mentioned that I hate international breaks?

So Liverpool have to cobble a lineup around those injuries and fatigued players, with an already shallow squad. Fun times. Perpetually fun times.

Hopefully, Suso will continue to stand in for Borini more often than not, including tomorrow. The other options are Cole and Downing and no, please no. Moving either Gerrard or Shelvey into the front three remains an unlikely possibility, slightly closer to being forced due to the limited squad, but I still don't see it happening.

As usual, both are more likely to compete for a place in midfield. Emphasis hopefully on the word "compete." Liverpool certainly could have used Shelvey in its last combative match against Stoke; given the way that Lee Mason refereed, Shelvey could have gotten away with any type of tackle he desired. And, in theory, Gerrard shouldn't be a nailed-on starter after two draining international matches. But he probably will be. It seems almost certain that Gerrard and Allen – the one midfielder who simply has to start every league match, at least until Lucas is fit – will be two of the three in midfield, with Rodgers choosing from Shelvey and Şahin for the attacking midfield role.

Jose Enrique is back in training, but it's probably too soon for him to come back into the XI after missing so much time. Robinson just played for the u21s (along with Morgan and Pacheco), which rules out his participation. Chances are we'll see the same back four as started against Norwich and Stoke, as I doubt Robinson would start for the u21s if Wisdom was doubtful. Which means that as long as Reina's fit, we'll probably see the same XI as started against Norwich and Stoke. Reading are less physical and and more forward-thinking than the Potters, but Liverpool will still have to solve some of the same, cagey problems in tomorrow's match. Hopefully, if it is the same XI, they'll cope far better.

Reading are one of six sides actually lower than Liverpool in the table, and one of just three who've yet to win a league match. Like Liverpool until Liverpool faced Stoke, they haven't kept a clean sheet in any of their six matches, conceding at least twice in four of the six. Of course, they've also been slightly more potent at the other end of the pitch, failing to score in just one league match. Liverpool's failed to score in three of its seven.

And to be fair, the Royals started the season well, with a battling opening day draw against Stoke before an unlucky loss at Chelsea thanks to an offside Torres goal. But the last international break led to a dramatic loss of form, a turgid 1-3 home loss to Tottenham, followed by a defeat at West Brom before improving in draws against Newcastle and Swansea.

Brian McDermott's side will almost certainly play 4-4-2: McCarthy; Gunter, Mariappa, Gorkss, Shorey; Kebe, Karacan, Tabb, McAnuff; Hunt, Pogrebnyak is the most likely XI, the same XI that held Swansea except for Gunter replacing Shawn Cummings. Ex-Liverpool player Danny Guthrie could come in for either Karacan or Tabb in midfield, while Cummings started the last two matches at right-back with Gunter out. Keeper Adam Federici is the only confirmed absentee, while midfielder Mikele Leigertwood will undergo a late fitness test – and could also start in the middle if fit.

Reading had seven players away with their countries: Chris Gunter, Hal Robson-Kanu, Simon Church (all Wales), Kaspars Gorkss (Latvia), Jem Karacan (Turkey), Adrian Mariappa (Jamaica), and Leigertwood (Antigua and Barbuda). Only Gunter and Gorkss started, while Church and Robson-Kanu came off the bench in their respective matches. Surprisingly, Pavel Pogrebnyak wasn't called up for Russia's matches.

Going back to the start of the 2010-11 season, Liverpool have won just two of the 13 matches following an international break: a 3-0 home win over eventually relegated West Ham in November 2010 and 2-1 away victory over Chelsea in November 2011. Otherwise, six draws (against Arsenal, Birmingham, Wigan, Sunderland, United, and Sunderland) and five losses (against Everton, West Brom, Stoke, Arsenal, and West Brom). That's an average of 0.92 points per match, compared to Liverpool's already awful average of 1.40 points per match since August 2010.

And in other depressing statistics, Liverpool have also won just two of the 13 home league matches since the start of 2012. That's an unconscionable, abysmal record, especially considering the usual advantages Liverpool have at Anfield. Even Hodgson won most of his home games. Hodgson, for pete's sake. Not that I'm arguing for his style of football by any stretch of the imagination, but Liverpool's failings in front of their own simply have to be rectified before Liverpool can progress. The last match saw Liverpool finally break the clean sheet hex. Tomorrow's match against a promoted side – no matter the international break and injury issues – needs to fix this flaw.


Anonymous said...

Gerrard has two league goals. United and Norwich.

Alcatrazzledazzle said...

Makes sense that Fox Soccer is showing Liverpool on delay. It's not like they've spent the last two months hyping the club with a six-episode promotional behind-the-scenes series or anything.

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