January 27, 2011, 01:25 AM – LIVE! on ESPN
Kenny Dalglish notched up his first win, after taking over from Roy Hodgson, against Wolverhampton last weekend. It was a sweet victory; a game that had everything a Liverpool supporter wanted to see. Fernando Torres was back amongst the goals and bagged a double to take his tally to 9 league goals this campaign. Raul Meireles has done a phenomenal job of filling in the shoes of club captain Steven Gerrard and his fantastic display against Wolves earned him the manager’s praise, something that he deserved. However, the cherry on the top was Liverpool’s game. The pass and play game reintroduced by Kenny Dalglish was indeed a success. Dalglish was right; it is the “Liverpool way” to play. As Fulham travel to Anfield on Wednesday, the Reds will look to build upon their recent success. More importantly, they will be looking for another consistent performance.
Fulham have gathered 7 points out of a possible 18 and see themselves in the 14th spot. Depending on how the other results shape up, a win against Liverpool will see them rise to the 11th spot. Manager Mark Hughes has outlined that breaking into the top ten is the club’s primary objective this season. A goal difference of zilch is right now Fulham’s biggest advantage. They are one of the 9 clubs to not have a negative goal difference. So if results go their way, then breaking into the top half of the table shouldn’t be a problem for the Cottagers.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Reds welcome the return of captain Steven Gerrard following a 3 match suspension that he picked up against bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup game. There is an air of excitement growing amongst Liverpool fans; all of whom are relishing the thought of how well Liverpool’s game could improve with the return of Gerrard, having seen their side put up the best performance of the season last week without him. Jamie Carragher continues to nurse his injury and will take the stands for this game. Liverpool otherwise do not face any other injury problems and Kenny Dalglish has the rest of the squad at his disposal.
“Pass & Move” seems to be the mantra at Anfield and the preacher Dalglish will no doubt be unequivocal about this before his starting XI walk out on the pitch. With the added home advantage and the fresh gameplay adopted by the side, fortune may favors the hosts. The Reds will be looking to pile up pressure early on just as they did against Wolves, and with the ball sweetly caressing the ground, as it did last weekend, it is going to make life difficult for Fulham defenders as they will have one eye on player movements too. It was this mistake that cost the Wolves the third goal, which saw Dirk Kuyt make a run that went unnoticed by every opposition player, eventually leading Torres to provide the finish.
Dalglish – Restoring Liverpool’s style
Glen Johnson’s employment as the left back at first raised a few eyebrows but with Martin Kelly performing exceptionally well in all the games that he has started, Dalglish sees no reason whatsoever to move Glen back to right back. Moreover, the England international has also admitted that he is comfortable with the position given to him and is ready to play in any position for the team.
Probable Starting Lineup: Reina, Skrtel, Agger, Glen, Kelly, Lucas, Meireles, Gerrard, Maxi, Kuyt, Torres.
While Mark Hughes did welcome the return of striker Andy Johnson in the game against Wigan, he will travel to Merseyside without the injured duo Bobby Zamora and Philippe Senderos. Both the players however, are said to be closing in on a return.
The Cottagers have secured a draw, a win and a loss in their last three away games and have scored in each of the games so Mark Hughes will be hoping that his side coughs up a goal or two against Liverpool. The manager is boosted with Captain Danny Murphy’s decision to sign a contract extension. Murphy has been the lynchpin for Fulham alongside Clint Dempsey. The 27 year old American has been in prolific form for Fulham so far this season and is the club’s leading goal scorer with 9 goals in all competitions. Fulham are also believed to be closing in on signing Chelsea youngster Kakuta on loan, but even if the move materialises, it’s highly unlikely it will be in time for the trip to Merseyside.
Dempsey will be the key figure when it comes to attack with Murphy’s responsibility being to unlock the Liverpool defense and feed the ball to Dembele/Johnson. Regarding defense, Fulham must now keep a close eye on every opposition player ahead of midfield as the side no longer plays the long balls and aerial crosses. Hangeland and Hughes that way have the most important task at hand.
Probable Starting Lineup: Stockdale, Hughes, Hangeland, Pantsil, Baird, Murphy, Etuhu, Dempsey, Duff, Johnson, Dembele.
Team Lineups – Liverpool v Fulham
-Fulham have failed to score in 5 of their last 6 Premier League games against Liverpool.
-The Cottagers have failed to score in 7 of their 9 Premier League visits to Anfield, including the last 4.
-Liverpool have lost just one of their last seven Premier League home games, winning five.
-Fulham have won just one of their last 29 Premier League games on the road.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool): Gerrard makes a comeback after serving his suspension to register his first league start under Dalglish, and for the kind of player he is, the “pass and play” concept fits the bill perfectly. Gerrard has always been a player who doesn’t spend too much time with ball. He is always on the lookout for a pass from the moment he gets the ball. The game against Fulham on Wednesday is going to give him the chance to play the kind of game he knows best. This is bound to make the game much more enjoyable to the viewing audience.
How will captain fantastic fair on his return?
Liverpool 2 – 0 Fulham