03 February 2015

Liverpool at Bolton 02.04.15

2:45pm ET, live in the US on Fox Sports 1

Last four head-to-head:
0-0 (h; FA Cup) 01.24.15
1-3 Bolton (a) 01.21.12
3-1 Liverpool (h) 08.27.11
2-1 Liverpool (h) 01.01.11

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-0 West Ham (h); 0-1 Chelsea aet (a); 0-0 Bolton (h)
Bolton: 2-2 Wolves (h); 2-4 Rotherham (a); 0-0 Liverpool (a)

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

Goalscorers (all):
Liverpool: Gerrard 9; Sterling 8; Lallana 4; Henderson, Lambert 3; Balotelli, Coutinho, Markovic, Moreno, Sturridge 2; Borini, Can, Johnson, Lovren, Rossiter, Skrtel, Suso 1
Bolton: C Davies, Mills, Pratley 5; Mason 4; Clough, Danns, Feeney, C.Y. Lee 3; Beckford 2; Clayton, M Davies, Guðjohnsen, Heskey, Moxey, Spearing, Trotter, Wheater 1

Referee: Roger East

Guess at a line-up:
Can Skrtel Sakho
Markovic Henderson Allen Enrique
Gerrard Lallana

As always in cup matches, I've no idea how many regular starters Rodgers will rest. Liverpool take cup competitions seriously, especially the FA Cup and especially with so many other big clubs already knocked out. But there is the small matter of a Merseyside Derby on Saturday.

The biggest question is over Steven Gerrard's participation. Play him in what might be his last FA Cup match – allowing Sterling or Coutinho or both a chance to rest – or save him to start what will probably be his last Merseyside Derby? He's coming off a hamstring injury which kept him out against West Ham but should be available tomorrow. It's hard to remove sentiment from the equation, but I honestly think Liverpool would be better served using Gerrard here – for what would be his 700th appearance for the club – and then possibly off the bench at Goodison. One, for the most part, Liverpool have been better without Gerrard this season. Two, other attackers – especially Coutinho, possibly Sterling – need the rest. Three, can you imagine the emotion if the score's level and he trots off the bench against Everton? Feelings.

There's also the small matter of who plays up front. I suspect the plan is to use Sturridge off the bench again, as against West Ham, in preparation for starting on Saturday. And if Sterling's also rested (have I mentioned that I hope Sterling and Coutinho are rested?), it's pick-your-poison up front: Borini, Balotelli, or Lambert (*shrugs*). My guess would be Borini, because there might actually be reasonably clever movement and pressing involved, but who knows.

Lucas is another who could use the rest, and shouldn't be as crucial to Liverpool's performance against the likes of Bolton, even away from home, which would allow Allen an appearance. Lovren and/or Johnson could replace any of the three usual defenders, most likely Sakho and/or Can, but we could also see Skrtel rested and Can given another chance at sweeper, as in the second half against West Ham. The previous tie demonstrated how important Liverpool's wing-backs are to the attack, and Manquillo and Enrique very much disappointed, but you'd expect at least one of Markovic or Moreno to be rested regardless. I'm guessing Moreno, simply because Liverpool now seemingly have another alternative at right wing-back after Lallana did well on Saturday. But you could also see Johnson in place of Markovic, or even Johnson and Enrique (*involuntary shudder* *goes to see if there's any new news on when Flanagan might return*).

Since holding Liverpool scoreless, Bolton have conceded six goals in two matches, away to 20th-placed Rotherham and at home against 7th-placed Wolves. Maybe the difference was Adam Bodgan, who returned from a six-month absence to make nine saves against Liverpool, then promptly injured himself again and is out for another six weeks.

Bolton signed and sold or loaned a handful of players since we last spoke. New players Barry Bannan, Adam Le Fondre, Ben Amos, Saidy Janko, Rochinha, Filip Twardzik, and Simeon Slavchev will all be ineligible. Jay Spearing, Conor Wilkinson, Chung Yong Lee, and Andy Kellett all departed, the first two featuring off the bench in the reverse fixture. In addition, Darren Pratley will miss out, tearing his hamstring in Saturday's draw with Wolves.

So there will be a few changes from the last meeting, but I doubt there will be many. Especially in defense; Bolton will almost certainly return to the 3-5-2 after switching to four at the back against Wolves. Replacing Pratley as the most "advanced" midfielder is the main issue, with Spearing and Lee gone and all the aforementioned players that neither of us know ineligible. My guess is that Guðjohnsen drops deeper, replaced up front by Zach Clough – who scored both goals against Wolves – but that's very much a guess. Liam Trotter, a deeper-lying midfielder, is also a possibility. Regardless, it should look something like Lonergan; Dervite, Mills, Ream; Feeney, Danns, Vela, Moxey; Gudjohnsen; Clough, Heskey.

A midweek match prior to the Derby is regrettable, but Liverpool's squad is finally looking strong enough to cope, and at least Liverpool have the chance to make amends for the performance 11 days ago. Which is more than Chelsea, City, Tottenham, and Southampton can say. A good performance and result, even with a handful of changes from the usual XI, would be a massive boon going into the next crucial month of league fixtures.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Thanks nate, love your work!