29 November 2013

Liverpool at Hull City 12.01.13

9:05am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (a) 05.09.10
6-1 Liverpool (h) 09.26.09
3-1 Liverpool (a) 04.25.09
2-2 (h) 12.13.08

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 3-3 Everton (a); 4-0 Fulham (h); 0-2 Arsenal (a)
Hull: 0-1 Palace (h); 1-4 Southampton (a); 1-0 Sunderland (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sturridge, Suarez 9; Gerrard 2; Coutinho, Moses, Skrtel 1
Hull: Brady 3; Sagbo 2; Aluko, Davies, Elmohamady 1

Referee: Howard Webb

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Flanagan
Henderson Gerrard Lucas Coutinho
Sturridge Suarez

There might be a few changes with the busy December schedule to come, the next match against Norwich taking place three days after this one, but I doubt it. Rodgers is often reticent to rotate unless his hand is forced, and Liverpool's front six have done more than well enough recently despite coming away with just a point from last weekend's derby. Sturridge should come back into the starting XI, but that should be the extent of the changes in attack.

Defense seems less certain, though.

Flanagan deserves a reward for his efforts against Everton, and deserves to keep his place. But Liverpool are facing Hull City, even if it's away from home. Liverpool will dominate possession, Liverpool's fullbacks will spend far more time in the opposition half than their own. And, no offense meant, that's not one of Flanagan's strong points.

Rodgers seemingly has a couple of options. Johnson could switch to left back, with Henderson at right back and Allen keeping his place for more attacking prowess, something of a 4-3-1-2. Or Cissokho might just get one last chance against weaker opposition in the hopes he finally gets his act together. But I still think Flanagan will get the nod, especially since Hull is far stronger on its right flank, attacking with width through Elmohamady whether he plays in midfield or at fullback.

We also might be in for some rotation at center-back. Liverpool have four outstanding choices at the position: Skrtel and Agger have started the last two and done little wrong – aside from set play defending, obviously – but both Sakho and Toure did little wrong before losing their places as well. Tomorrow might be a good opportunity to use both Sakho and Agger in the same side since Hull will attack infrequently at best. But, as usual under Rodgers, I'll continue to guess those who've been preferred until proven wrong.

Hull are the archetypal promoted side. A rigid, deep defense; a reliance on long balls, set plays, and shots from distance. Only Palace and Sunderland have scored fewer goals than Hull's nine, and three of those nine came in one match against Newcastle. Hull haven't scored more than once in any other fixture.

With an already shallow squad, Hull are also dealing with a fair few injuries at the moment. Brady and Davies are doubtful; McShane, Quinn, and Aluko are assuredly out. That's two of Hull's top scorers and both starting central defenders that could be absent. Davies, Hull's captain, appears the more likely to be available. If he is, Hull's XI will most likely be McGregor; Rosenior, Davies, Bruce, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Koren, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd; Sagbo. The two center-backs in contention to replace McShane and Davies are Alex Bruce and Abdoulaye Faye. If available, Brady would most likely start on the left in place of Boyd.

But Hull have played with five at the back in a few matches this season. It should have gotten them a 0-0 against Spurs if not for a trademark dubious Spurs penalty, but then the formation was absolutely walloped by Southampton in a 1-4 loss, conceding three in the first half. That's probably fresher in Bruce's mind – and arguably more relevant than its "success" against Tottenham – but if Bruce decides to just pack his own half with as many defenders as possible, the most likely XI is McGregor; Elmohamady, Davies, Faye, Figueroa, Rosenior; Koren, Huddlestone, Livermore, Boyd; Sagbo.

Either way, Liverpool will have to have the patience and guile to carve through a parked bus defense. Thankfully, that's something that Suarez, Sturridge, et al have done well in 2013. However, defending against counter attacks and set plays – which will be Hull's main and probably only forms of attack – has been a bit more of a struggle.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

i really would like to see this team take on hull. i wish rodgers would trust his squad more...