February 12, 2011, 20:25 PM IST, Live on ESPN
The red half of Merseyside is going through a purple patch for the first time this season as revival under Anfield legend Kenny Dalglish continues. Liverpool are back amongst the top 6 teams after a dismal start to the season that saw them meandering on the shores of relegation and then lingering around the bottom half of the table. 4 wins out of 4, plus the added bonus of 4 clean sheets and the arrival of new signings is surely a mark of changing times for Liverpool FC. Having beaten Chelsea last week, the squad is now brimming with confidence and it is this sort of mindset that can reward them three points against a struggling Wigan Athletic.
Wigan, on the other hand, has become relegation fodder due to their dismal form in the last 6 games. 6 points out of a possible 18 is not the kind of picture Roberto Martinez had painted, but the manager does know how to find a silver lining. Despite their poor run of form, their last win against Blackburn Rovers at home was, according to the boss, a showcasing of the side’s growing maturity. It is not the best time of the year to face the Reds, but Martinez will be looking to cause damage, in any capacity.
Roberto Martinez has to mastermind his squad’s survival
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Reds do have some worrying news ahead of the encounter against Wigan. Captain Steven Gerrard finished the game against Chelsea last week with a groin injury that ruled him out of the midweek international fixture against Denmark. Dalglish is hoping that the midfielder will regain fitness before the game on Saturday.
While Andy Carroll continues to receive treatment for his thigh injury, the latest blow for the Reds came on Thursday when the medical staff declared that the youngster Jonjo Shelvey will have to be ruled for atleast 3 months because of a knee tendon problem. If Gerrard doesn’t make it to the squad for Saturday’s game then it shrinks Kenny’s options in midfield.
Tactically, Dalglish has been very shrewd in his plots. After fielding a 5-man defense against Stoke and 3 in the game against Chelsea, it is evident that the manager studies the opponents’ strengths and then decides his formation and attacking style, rather than putting out the same formation week in week out irrespective of who the opposition is.
Going by Wigan’s current run of form and squad strengths, Dalglish is most likely to put out an attacking formation that plays the game through the middle of the park. An important point to be noted here is Luis Suarez’ position. Suarez who has played just about 15 minutes since his arrival from Ajax and seems to be comfortable playing from out wide and also from just behind the striker. Hence Dalglish will be looking to exploit this strength of his, if he lines him behind Kuyt on the pitch.
Probable Starting Lineup: Reina, Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Lucas, Poulsen, Johnson, Meireles, Maxi, Kuyt, Suarez.
The Latics welcome the return of Andy Caldwell, who had suffered a cheekbone fracture during the side’s game against West Brom earlier during the year. The player is advised to wear a mask during the game so it shouldn’t really be hard for anybody to spot him. He is most likely to replace Emmerson Boyce in central defense. Wigan otherwise do not have any other injury worries going into this game and Martinez can choose from a full strength squad.
Wigan is never shy of playing attacking football away from home and will look to do so even against Liverpool. With the presence of a young attacking force upfront, which includes the likes of Franco Di Santo, James McCarthy, Hugo Rodallega and Victor Moses, Martinez is most likely going to make use of at least three out of these four attackers in his starting lineup.
The presence of Charles N’Zogbia on the left flank is always a tricky affair to deal with, and Martin Kelly will have another difficult task at hand to keep the French attacker at bay.
Caldwell and Alcaraz will be facing Luis Suarez for the first time and given his 15 minute cameo against Stoke, the two defenders will have to be on their toes if they have to stop the little Uruguayan.
Midfielder Ben Watson last week stated that it was vital that Wigan start accumulating points if they are to retain their top flight status. And although the victory against Blackburn followed soon after, it is a different game altogether against Liverpool and he knows the importance of three points from this game.
Probable Starting Lineup: Al-Habsi, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Gohouri, Diame, Watson, N’Zogbia, McCarthy, Rodallega, Moses.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Luis Suarez (Liverpool): The former Ajax man already has a proven track record in Holland and is eager to kick start a career in England. After training with the squad for about 10 days now, the striker will finally get his chance to feature in the starting line-up. Kenny Dalglish has got the club to a point where one would not fall into apprehension if Gerrard was to be absent due to injury, and having said that, Suarez has the chance to become an instant hit at Anfield.
Suarez – It could be his day
Liverpool 2 – 0 Wigan Athletic
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST