21 November 2012

Liverpool v BSC Young Boys 11.22.12

3:05pm ET, live in the US on FSC

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

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: 3-0 Wigan (h); 1-1 Chelsea (a); 0-1 Anzhi (a)
Young Boys:0-0 St Gallen (h); 5-1 Muttenz (a); 3-2 Udinese (a)

Goalscorers (Europa League):
Liverpool: Shelvey 3; Downing, Suarez 2; Borini, Coates, Gerrard, Johnson, Wisdom 1
Young Boys: Bobadilla 6; Farnerud, Nuzzolo 2; Costanzo, Frey, Mayuka, Ojala, Raimondi, Zarate 1

Referee: Alon Yefet (ISR)

Guess at a line-up
Wisdom Coates Skrtel Enrique
Gerrard Henderson
Suso Suarez Assaidi

The same old Europa League question. How many senior players can Rodgers spare to start? It sounds like the answer is "a lot."

It'd be little surprise to see a mostly, if not totally, full-strength XI, similar to the home match against Anzhi. This match, at Anfield, against a side that Liverpool beat in Switzerland with a makeshift lineup, is far more winnable than when the team travels to Udine in two weeks. Qualification tomorrow isn't totally in Liverpool's hands – the only way Liverpool can assure progression to the knockout rounds is to win coupled with a Udinese loss or draw in Moscow – but a victory against Young Boys is pretty much vital to Liverpool's hopes.

There are a few players I worry about more than others. Sterling because of his age. Agger and Gerrard because of each's injury history. Allen because he's showed signs of fatigue in the last couple of matches. Johnson because he's only recently back from a two-week absence.

But then again, what are Liverpool's choices? Coates should spell Agger, partnered with Skrtel rather than Carragher due to Young Boys' pace on the counter. Wisdom's been overused as well, but if Rodgers keeps the formula which worked well against Wigan, both Wisdom and Johnson will continue to start at fullback with Enrique further forward in the league, requiring one of the two to play tomorrow with Rodgers choosing from Enrique and Robinson on the other flank.

As much as it annoys me, it appears Gerrard's likely to play. Liverpool's 32-year-old captain, who made just 24 appearances in 2010-11 and 28 in 2011-12, has already played more minutes than anyone in the squad. So be it, I guess.

Henderson also seems likely to start, excellent against Wigan and having played three of the four group stage matches so far. So does Rodgers replicate Saturday's success, with Henderson and Gerrard ahead of Allen, or play those two in a deeper role with Shelvey, Şahin, or Suso as the attacking midfielder? Your guess is as good as mine. Suso seems the least likely for two reasons. One, Saturday's match. Two, he'll be needed on the flanks if Sterling is rested, given that Enrique seems more likely to play at left back, Downing's wholly out-of-favor, Borini's still injured for a month or two, and the less said about Joe Cole, the better. Which leaves Suso and Assaidi, or possibly Morgan in a wide role, as in the home leg against Hearts.

While it'd be nice to rest Suarez every once in a while, the squad depth almost demands his inclusion if tomorrow's XI is anywhere near full strength. Morgan or Yesil can start up front in two weeks if Liverpool assure qualification. Suarez *knocks furiously on wood* is one of the rare players who seems happier playing every single game in a row. And, news flash, Liverpool will be without him for at least one match in the league sooner rather than later when he picks up an inevitable fifth yellow card. I'm honestly surprised it hasn't happened yet.

In this competition, Young Boys are coming off a surprising 3-2 victory against Udinese in Italy, prefaced by a 3-1 win against the same side in Switzerland. They've scored three in three of their four Europa League group matches, those two matches against Udinese and against Liverpool on the first matchday, requiring the Reds to comeback from a deficit and score five. This improvement in the Europa League has coincided with struggles in the Swiss Super League, still in fifth – where they were when facing Liverpool in September – but currently miles behind Basel in fourth. They're winless in their last four league matches, since the end of September, with draws against St Gallen and Zurich and losses to Grasshopper and Basel.

Bobadilla, with six goals in this competition (including four of the six against Udinese), is the clear threat. Against Liverpool, he was provider rather than scorer, setting up both Ojala and Zarate's goals. But I doubt I need remind how dangerous Young Boys' wingers – Nuzzolo and Zarate – were against Liverpool, especially on the counter-attack. With no injuries to report, I'd be surprised if Bern's lineup deviated much from the last meeting: Wölfli; Sutter, Veskovac, Ojala, Raimondi; Zverotic, Spycher; Zarate, Farnerud, Nuzzolo; Bobadilla. Schneuwly or Costanzo could come in from Spycher in central defense; Nef for one of the two center-backs, but those seem the only likely changed based on Young Boys' recent lineups in the Swiss and Europa Leagues.

For those not based in the USA, tomorrow's Thanksgiving, which means most of us will be stuffing face and silently begrudging the presence of family members we don't see often for good reason. I will, however, make time to watch the match, and should be able to eke out space for the review as well. Americans: try to get away from the family for a couple of hours, and maybe we'll have something to be thankful for.


CSD said...

"begrudging the presence of family members we don't see often for good reason"

Spot on.

Anonymous said...

You're approaching car talk in great writing about main subject... And general life as well.