24 January 2014

Liverpool at Bournemouth 01.25.14

7:45am ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Last four head-to-head:
4-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.30.68
0-0 (a; FA Cup) 01.27.68
4-1 Liverpool (h; FA Cup) 01.12.27
1-1 (a; FA Cup) 01.08.27

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-2 Villa (h); 5-3 Stoke (a); 2-0 Oldham (h); 2-0 Hull (h)
Bournemouth: 1-1 Watford (h); 4-1 Burton (h); 0-3 Wigan (a)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Suarez 22; Sturridge 13; Gerrard 5; Sterling 4; Coutinho, Henderson, Skrtel 2; Agger, Aspas, Flanagan, Moses, Sakho 1
Bournemouth: Grabban 11; Pitman 7; Ritchie 5; Pugh 4; Fraser 3; O'Kane 2; Arter, Cook, Elphick, Rantie 1

Referee: Lee Probert

Guess at a line-up:
Flanagan Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Gerrard Henderson
Aspas L Alberto Moses

So, who's fit? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Oh, hey, and there's a Merseyside Derby on Tuesday.

Liverpool literally have no alternatives in defense. Skrtel and Toure are the only two available center-backs, Cissokho is the only available first-team left-back, unless Rodgers wants to hand Brad Smith a second appearance (and first start) despite an already makeshift back four. Flanagan's only just returned from injury, and may not even be fit enough to start; if that's the case, Sterling seemingly has to play right-back. Henderson would be an option there, but as he and Gerrard are the only two healthy central midfielders, he'll almost certainly be used there. We won't mention that's the same central midfield which wholly failed to operate against Aston Villa and that Bournemouth deploy a similar formation. Nope. Not mentioning it.

Liverpool at least have the ability to rotate the attacking players. Whether Rodgers will actually do so is the question. Coutinho, Sterling, and Sturridge seemingly need to be rested or protected, the former two over-worked of late, the latter only recently back from injury. I'd suggest protecting Suarez as well, primarily because of Tuesday's match, but he's one of those rare players that rarely need a rest. Aspas, Alberto, Moses, and Ibe are all options – out-of-favor options for the most part, but options nonetheless. If Suarez starts, he'll probably be joined by the first three, whether Liverpool play 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-2-2. If Suarez is rested, those four will probably be the front four.

Bournemouth are currently 16th in the Championship, seven points outside of the relegation zone. They've the second leakiest defense in the division, conceding 45 goals in the 26 matches so far this season. Only Millwall have allowed more. Bournemouth's last league win came on Boxing Day against Yeovil, drawing three and losing once since. That 3-0 win over Yeovil was Bournemouth's only clean sheet in the last 20 matches, the previous coming on September 17th. Something Liverpool (and its fans) came sympathize with.

Eddie Howe has has started nearly the same XI in the last five league matches. 4-3-3: Camp; Francis, Elphick, Ward, Daniels; Surman, O'Kane, Arter; Ritchie, Grabban, Pugh. Fraser has come in for Pugh on the left wing twice, McQuoid for Arter in midfield once, but those have been the only changes in the league line-ups since Boxing Day. Howe did slightly rotate his side for the previous FA Cup round, but I doubt he'll do so tomorrow.

As against Oldham, I won't embarrass us both by pretending to be familiar with Bournemouth's players. Defender Elliott Ward and midfielder Andrew Surman have both faced Liverpool before while at Norwich, with Ward starting in Suarez's first hat-trick, Surman in Suarez's second. Goalkeeper Lee Camp has drifted around the lower divisions and a couple of Premiership clubs for a decade; he's never faced Liverpool, but has probably been on the bench in a match or two for Derby, Norwich, or West Brom. Either Grabben or Pitman will start up front – but probably not both, given Howe's preferred formation – with the two responsible for half of Bournemouth's goals.

It sounds regrettably patronizing, but as is always the case in these matches, this will be one of Bournemouth's biggest fixtures of the season. And it'll be in front of their own fans. As Liverpool's learned, primarily against Mansfield and Oldham last season, that can be a recipe for disaster.

Everton on Tuesday is a vastly, indescribably more important match. But this one comes first, and no matter who starts, Liverpool need to focus on the task at hand before thoughts turn to the derby.

1 comment :

Vercingetora said...

Maybe I missed yet another addition to our seemingly endless injury list, but isn't Kelly available?

I'd be willing, but I have fluid on my knee and can't play either.