07 November 2012

Liverpool at Anzhi Makhachkala 11.08.12

12pm ET, live in the US on FSC

Group Stage matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Anzhi (h); 2-3 Udinese (h); 5-3 BSC Young Boys (a)
Anzhi: 0-1 Liverpool (a); 2-0 BSC Young Boys (h); 1-1 Udinese (a)

Previous rounds:
Liverpool: 1-1 Hearts (h), 1-0 Hearts (a); 3-0 Gomel (h), 1-0 Gomel (a)
Anzhi: 5-0 AZ (a), 1-0 AZ (h); 2-0 Vitesse (a), 2-0 Vitesse (h); 4-0 Honved (a), 1-0 Honved (h)

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Newcastle (h); 1-3 Swansea (h); 2-2 Everton (a)
Anzhi: 3-1 Terek Grozny (h); 2-1 Krylya Sovetov (h); 1-2 Rubin Kazan (a)

Goalscorers (Europa League):
Liverpool: Shelvey 3; Downing, Suarez 2; Borini, Coates, Gerrard, Johnson, Wisdom 1
Anzhi: Eto'o 7; Traore 3; Shatov 2; Boussoufa, Carcela, Jucilei, Lakhiyalov, Smolov 1

Referee: David Fernández Borbalán (ESP)

Guess at a line-up
Wisdom Coates Carragher Robinson
Henderson Shelvey
Downing Yesil Assaidi

Jones, Gulacsi; Flanagan, Wisdom, Robinson, Coates, Carragher, Wilson, Sama; Henderson, Shelvey, Coady, Suso, Cole, Pacheco; Downing, Assaidi, Yesil, Morgan.

That's the squad for tomorrow's match.

No Suarez. No Gerrard. No Allen, Agger, Enrique, Şahin, Skrtel, Sterling, Johnson, or Reina.


Flanagan's finally involved, but with Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique both fit, Wisdom's appearances may begin to be limited. It also means that, thankfully, Henderson's likely to play in central midfield rather than as a stand-in full back. It wouldn't surprise me to see Wisdom start here, with Johnson finally returning on the right against Chelsea. Otherwise, the defense seems writes itself: Jones in goal, Carragher and Coates in central defense, and Robinson at left back.

The above squad shows that Liverpool's options in midfield – the strongest part of the squad – are limited with Allen, Gerrard, and Şahin not traveling and Lucas out injured for another month or so. Henderson and Shelvey seemingly have to be the two deeper-lying midfielders – assuming that Liverpool continue with two behind one – with Cole, Pacheco, and Suso competing for the attacking midfield slot, and Coady in reserve. Considering Suso's continued importance to the first team and Rodgers not using Pacheco since the league cup match against West Brom, odds are on Joe Cole's inclusion.

Initial rumors had Pacheco left out of the traveling party, which led to me drafting a long screed about Liverpool persisting with Joe Cole for reasons I just do not understand. But, hark the herald angels sing, Pacheco's involved. But Joe Cole will probably start. Rest your voices now for screaming at the television tomorrow. You're gonna need your strength.

Downing and Assaidi should start on the flanks, as in both league cup matches and all three of the group stage games so far. Sandwiched between with be either Yesil or Morgan. The young German has been preferred in these types of matches, but also played 45 minutes in the u21 match on Monday, while Morgan has resumed training with the first team after a stint at Kirkby.

There is, however, a possible curveball. Lord knows you can't believe anything you read on the internet (unless I wrote it), but there's a Twitter rumor going around that Liverpool will play with five at the back. Jones; Flanagan, Wisdom, Coates, Carragher, Downing; Henderson, Coady, Shelvey; Cole; Morgan. I am not vouching for (or against) its credibility. I find that line-up somewhat hard to believe, although it wouldn't be the biggest surprise this season. It didn't seem so unlikely that I immediately ignored and dismissed it. Playing with wing backs, in a more defensive formation, does make sense with a weakened line-up away from Anfield against strong opponents in European competition, and could well be a reaction to how the majority of these players performed last week against Swansea. So fair warning.

Since these two sides last met, Anzhi lost just its second league match of the season, at Rubin Kazan, falling to second in the Russian Premier League. Anzhi played a mostly-full strength XI at Anfield two weeks ago, but I suspect they'll be more attacking at home, with Lacina Traore starting rather than coming off the bench, Eto'o as playmaker rather than out-and-out-striker, and usual holding midfielder Jucilei returning to the squad. Otherwise, most of the names will be familiar from last time out; there are no new injuries to report.

Liverpool's win in the last round, eking out a 1-0 with some big names involved, willing to jeopardize the league match at Everton for three points in the Europa League, means that Liverpool currently top the group at the halfway stage. For all my condemnation of the personnel choices, it gave Liverpool much-needed breathing space in this competition, a competition made more important by Liverpool's loss to Swansea in the league cup. Still, the margin of error remains slim. Liverpool may be two points ahead, but both Udinese and Anzhi have two of their last three matches at home, including tomorrow's, while Liverpool have to travel in its next two matches, the toughest two they'll play.

We wanted to see how the youngsters and reserves would develop in the Europa League. We'll find out an awful lot tomorrow.

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