23 January 2015

Liverpool v Bolton 01.24.15

12:30pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 2

Last four head-to-head:
1-3 Bolton (a) 01.21.12
3-1 Liverpool (h) 08.27.11
2-1 Liverpool (h) 01.01.11
1-0 Liverpool (a) 10.31.10

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-1 Chelsea (h); 2-0 Villa (a); 1-0 Sunderland (a)
Bolton: 2-1 Sheffield Wed (a); 1-1 Leeds (h); 1-0 Wigan (h)

Previous round:
Liverpool: 2-1 Wimbledon (a)
Bolton: 1-0 Wigan (h)

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Sterling 7; Lallana 4; Henderson, Lambert 3; Balotelli, Coutinho, Markovic, Moreno 2; Borini, Can, Johnson, Lovren, Rossiter, Skrtel, Sturridge, Suso 1
Bolton: C Davies, Pratley 5; Mason, Mills 4; Danns, Feeney, C.Y. Lee 3; Beckford 2; Clayton, Clough, M Davies, Guðjohnsen, Heskey, Moxey, Spearing, Wheater 1

Referee: Kevin Friend

Guess at a line-up:
Lovren Skrtel Sakho
Manquillo Rossiter Henderson Enrique
Lallana Sterling

I'd prefer wholesale changes, because last Tuesday's match was draining and next Tuesday's match will be as well, but Rodgers rarely operates like that. But there seemingly have to be at least a handful of changes.

One of Lovren or Johnson seem likely to come back into the side. Possibly both, if Rodgers prefers Johnson at wing-back. But rotation is much less important in defense, and Liverpool's defense is settled and has been playing well. Still, I suspect Lovren will get another chance, whether in place of Can or Sakho.

The wing-backs, who probably ran more than any other player against Chelsea, will probably be swapped out, with Johnson or Manquillo on the right, and Enrique on the left.

Lucas is another seemingly in need of a rest. He plays much better when fresh, and Liverpool will desperately need him on Tuesday. At the same time, Rodgers clearly stated that Rossiter would be involved against Bolton. Maybe this means an appearance off the bench instead, but the quotes suggest a definite appearance, and the only definite appearance is an appearance from the start. Maybe Liverpool completely change the midfield, with both Rossiter and Allen coming in, but Henderson, the Energizer Bunny that he is, could keep his place for continuity and to captain the side.

And I have no idea what Liverpool will do up front. Lallana seems certain to be included. Coutinho probably needs a rest. If Gerrard's going to start on Tuesday, he's unlikely to start tomorrow, because he also started last Tuesday and Liverpool's finally realized he can't start three matches in a week, even if you bring him off at the hour mark. Sterling is coming off his winter break, and should be fresh enough to start three matches in a week, even if I still worry about his fitness. Markovic's a possibility in one of the two attacking midfielder spots, but I expect he'll be left on the bench for the same reason mentioned in the part about wing-backs. It's a pity that Jordon Ibe is cup-tied, as he'd be certain to start otherwise.

So, by process of elimination, Lallana and Sterling seem likely to be the attacking midfielders, with one of Borini, Balotelli, and Lambert up front. And Borini remains the most suited to Liverpool's preferred formation and style.

As frequently happens in cup matches, I won't embarrass us both by pretending to know much about Bolton. 15th in the league but 10 points outside the relegation zone, a slightly negative goal difference, consistently inconsistent but better since Neil Lennon because manager in mid-October.

Lennon's side have been alternated between 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 diamond recently. Former Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing is wholly out-of-favor, but 37-year-old Emile Heskey is likely to start up front, whether on his own or paired with Eidur Guðjohnsen. If it's 4-2-3-1, which seems slightly more likely, Bolton's XI will be something like Lonergan; Vela, Mills, Dervite, Ream; Danns, Trotter; Feeney, Guðjohnsen, Pratley; Heskey. If it's the diamond, it'll probably be the same XI which beat Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday: Lonergan; Dervite, Mills, Wheater, Ream; Danns, Feeney, Vela, Pratley; Heskey, Guðjohnsen. Bolton will be without both Chung-Yong Lee and joint-top scorer Craig Davies in attack, but youngster Zach Clough – who scored the winner against Wigan in the last round – could partner Heskey or Guðjohnsen, with the other available off the bench.

I can't help but remember Bolton's time in the Premier League, a side that often gave Liverpool problems whether managed by Allardyce, Sammy Lee, or Owen Coyle. Even in Bolton's last top-flight season, they beat Liverpool handily, a 3-1 home win with former Liverpool striker David Ngog imperious. At most, five Liverpool players from that day are likely to feature (Skrtel, Henderson, Enrique, Johnson, Gerrard) while only three Bolton players are still with the club (Mark Davies, Wheater, Bodgan). But Bolton fans will remember it well, Liverpool fans remember it well.

Bolton hasn't had many days like this, many matches like this, since relegation. And they'll want to take full advantage. And if Liverpool aren't up for the match, are focused on Tuesday's semi-final, Bolton have the potential to take full advantage.

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