August 27, 2011, 22:00 Hours IST
Two wins in a row, a Uruguayan who has been a raging bull against the opposition so far this season and an aura of positivity floating around the dressing room – a few simple things that point towards Liverpool’s start to the new campaign. After succumbing to a draw in the first game, the Reds fought hard in their second against Arsenal to register their first win against the Gunners away from home since 2000. Following this, their recent 1 – 3 victory against League One side Exeter in the Carling Cup has left the side in good shape to face a tough Bolton Wanderers side this Saturday. Luis Suarez has been in the limelight ever since his return from Copa America, having scored three in three now, while the big Geordie Andy Carroll also opened his account against Exeter with a thunderous strike. Safe to say the Reds are going to give Bolton a tough time on Matchday 3.
Bolton have had an equally good start to the season. An opening day 0 – 4 thumping of QPR, away from home, saw them sit at the top of the table. And although the Trotters suffered a defeat at home at the hands of Manchester City, Owen Coyle’s team put up a resilient performance which echoes their intent to push harder this season. The side has just come off a 2 – 1 victory over Macclesfield in the Carling Cup and will be travelling to Anfield with a strong determination to walk away with three points. Owen Coyle has admitted that he will be busy in the dying days of the transfer window, which will please the Liverpool fans since Bolton have kept an eye on Reds’ striker David N’Gog for quite a while this summer. Both clubs might be engaged in talks soon but that is still a moment for the future and right now the team bus will be hoping to stop the likes of Suarez & Carroll on Saturday.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Reds march into the game without the services of Captain Steven Gerrard and right-back Glen Johnson. There is also a new addition to this list – Raul Meireles. The Portuguese picked up a collarbone injury in the Carling Cup encounter against Exeter and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks. The squad, however, has been trimmed to quite an extent with the departures of Jovanovic, Koncheskey and recently, Nabil El Zhar and Alberto Aquilani. Still, the Liverpool bench does have equally able players as on the pitch. And with the club now closing in on the signing of young Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates, the defensive issues also seem to be taken care of. It all boils down to where Dalglish takes this team this season. He has been given the firepower to do it and with the trust the players show in him, there is no reason to believe that Liverpool will slump again this time.
Dalglish put out a 4-2-3-1 against Exeter with Suarez leading the line. However, Bolton have a physical nature to their game and coming up against the likes of Cahill and Knight is not exactly the easiest thing to do. We can expect Kenny to put out a 4-4-2 formation with Suarez and Carroll heading the strike force. The idea behind using two strikers against a team such as Bolton is fairly simple. While Carroll can stand up against Cahill and Knight in the center of defense, Suarez, with his lightening pace, can come out on the receiving end of the pass coming in from the midfield. In addition to this, Suarez can draw defenders into committing fouls which could help the Reds win set pieces around the box. The rest would be upto Adam or Suarez himself.
There is also a possibility of Dalglish fielding a 4-2-3-1 formation again with Henderson on the right and Suarez playing through the center, just behind Carroll. However, with this sort of formation the passing is more likely to be focused through the center of the park, limiting Henderson’s and Downing’s role on either flank. This again could lead to limited possession in midfield because players such as Muamba and Reo-Coker are again quite physical in their game and it isn’t really right to assume that Adam will come out winner in a duel, even though he has the built to take on Muamba or Coker. His defensive side still needs some fine tuning and that is something we will only observe over time.
Probable Starting Line-up: Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Kelly, Enrique, Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing, Suarez, Carroll.
Bolton have quite a few notable absentees for the Liverpool game. Defenders Tyrone Mears and Sam Ricketts are out due to a broken leg and Achilles injury respectively, while Ricardo Gardner is ruled out due to a groin injury. Korean winger Lee Chung-Yong has suffered a broken leg and will not board the bus, while Stuart Holden will be held back due to a knock on the knee. The good news for Bolton, however, is that right-back Gretar Steinsson is expected to feature in the game against Liverpool after initial fears of a broken metatarsal were quelled.
Bolton are most likely to field the same side that came up against Manchester City last week. This means that Coyle is going to resort to a 4-4-2 with Davies and Klasnic upfront, Muamba and Nigel Reo-Coker in midfield, with Muamba playing the more defensive role of the two. Gary Cahill, Zat Knight, Steinsson and Robinson will make up the backline.
Muamba will have an important role in fending off Adam and Suarez, if the Uruguayan starts his runs from the center of the park. As expected, Bolton will look to devour Liverpool aerially and the likes of Kevin Davies and Gary Cahill are surely going to prove a threat for the Reds. Klasnic came up with a good finish against Manchester City last weekend and has shown how lethal he can get in the box. This will surely be a good test for Agger, Skrtel and Reina. With Steinsson likely to play, Enrique will have an eye on him. The Icelandic footballer doesn’t waste time on the run and is more prone to whipping the crosses into the box.
Probable Starting Line-up: Jasskelainen, Robinson, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Muamba, Eagles, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Klasnic, Davies.
Key Match Facts
1) Liverpool have won the last nine consecutive League encounters against Bolton.
2) Kevin Davies has managed to find the back of the net in three of the last four matches between Liverpool and Bolton.
3) Bolton has failed to score in six of its last nine League games against Liverpool.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Luis Suarez (Liverpool): El Pistolero has either scored or assisted every Liverpool goal scored so far this season. A successful Copa America has rubbed off its effect on Suarez, and there is no doubt that he will give the Bolton defense a run of their money.
Will El Pistolero Fire Again?
Liverpool 2 – 1 Bolton Wanderers
None of the top clubs have found it easy to come up against Bolton in the recent past and Coyle has built a team that is tough and resilient. They will surely put up a fight against Liverpool, but the Reds have an edge over their opponents in terms of quality on the pitch. To add to this, with smiles returning to people’s faces ever since FSG took over, Anfield is slowly becoming a fortress again.