26 August 2013

Liverpool v Notts County 08.27.13

2:45pm ET, live in the US on BeIN Sport

Last four head-to-head:
4-0 Liverpool (h) 03.31.92
2-1 Liverpool (a) 09.07.91
0-0 (a) 05.12.84
5-0 Liverpool (h) 12.17.83

Last matches:
Liverpool: 1-0 Villa (a); 1-0 Stoke (h)
Notts County: 0-1 Stevenage (h); 1-1 Walsall (a); 2-4 Peterborough (h)

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Guess at a line-up:
Kelly Toure Wisdom Cissokho
Henderson Allen
Aspas Alberto Sterling

There's no way I'm guessing this lineup correctly, given the number of directions Rodgers could choose to take. The deciding question, as usual in the cups, is how seriously will Rodgers take this match? Especially with Manchester United imminent.

The answer seems "pretty seriously" when Rodgers says things like:
"It will be an opportunity for some players, who haven't featured, to get a game. The core of our team will very much be there. If there's an opportunity to recover one or two players that maybe had little niggles, we'll look at that. But we'll have a strong side out."

If you're asking me, my lineup selection would start with two lists:

Players that need to play, if available: Allen, Sterling, Cissokho, Kelly, Wisdom.

Players that probably shouldn't be risked: Gerrard, Lucas, Agger, Sturridge, Coutinho.

But chances are at least one of the players listed in the "DON'T RISK" section starts, if not more. Even with United five days later, even after a tiring, hard-fought match on Saturday, Liverpool will probably take this competition more seriously than I'd like to assume, especially without participation in the Europa League. Memories of Oldham, not to mention Northampton, are still fairly fresh wounds.

Skrtel is reportedly suffering with a knock (my guess is I've-not-played-well-in-a-year-but-they-can't-sell-me-itis), which is why he's not included in the "needs to play" list. With Coates also absent, Rodgers' hands are pretty much tied at center-back. Wisdom is almost assuredly one of the two starters; Kelly could play there as well, with Johnson, Flanagan, or even McLaughlin at right back, but I suspect Rodgers won't want to use both Kelly and Wisdom in central defense. Which means Toure or Agger will play. Agger has a history of breaking easily, and was at his best last season with ample recovery time. He played in only four of the 12 Europa League matches and didn't appear in any of the four domestic cup matches last season. Let's not play Agger.

If any of the above five "DON'T RISK" players feature, it'll probably be Gerrard or Lucas in midfield. As in central defense, Rodgers doesn't really have a surplus of options in that area: Gerrard, Lucas, Allen, and Henderson. I'd be perfectly happy with the Henderson/Allen pairing, but I suspect Rodgers will start either Gerrard or Lucas with Allen.

And then there's the front four. Of the four who've started Liverpool's two league matches, I'd be most comfortable with Aspas playing, the only one who's been subbed out of both matches and who needs the experience of dealing with the more agricultural English style of play that lower league sides so helpfully provide. Sturridge is coming off an extended summer-long injury. Coutinho looked fatigued and below par on Saturday. Both Borini and Sterling, and Luis Alberto and Jordon Ibe to a lesser extent, need the match practice if they're to be relied on for any length of time during the league campaign. But, again, it wouldn't surprise me to see either Sturridge or Coutinho in the XI.

Notts County are winless through four League One matches, with three losses and a draw, after finishing mid-table last season. The Magpies beat League Two Fleetwood in the previous round to advance to this stage.

I won't embarrass us both by pretending to know anything about Notts County's projected lineup, players, or tactics. I recognize exactly three names in their squad: center-back and captain Dean Leacock, who played for Fulham and Derby for a number of seasons, including a few in the Premiership; striker Enoch Showunmi, who played for Leeds and Tranmere (and probably some others, I suppose); and Bartosz Bialkowski, who was Southampton's keeper for a few years until last season's promotion. Otherwise, I'm drawing a blank. Recent match reports suggest they'll play 4-4-2. I realize this is all a lot of help.

We're all well aware that these games have been tricky for Liverpool in the past, and that Liverpool struggled against the two lower league sides they faced last season (albeit in a different competition). No matter who starts tomorrow, Rodgers will want improvement in that area, and to continue the resilient, if not inspiring, start to the season. That, even with United on Sunday, are undoubtedly the priorities. Only time will tell whether that ends up being a good or bad thing.

Meta note: The match review won't be up until very late tomorrow night. I'll be around on Twitter to post inanities during the match, but have to be somewhere at 5pm, and completing a review before then is incredibly unlikely. This will be the first of a few weekday matches I'll most likely have to miss this season. Apologies in advance. Stupid real life.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Damn real life getting in the way. At least you get the chance to do some deferral escapism.