Tuesday, May 1st, 2012; 19:45 BST
It has been a good start to what could be a highly important week for Liverpool. With a potential cup double beaming at the end of the tunnel, Kenny Dalglish’s team has showed the right signs in preparing for a feisty encounter with Champions League finalists Chelsea coming Saturday.
With a convincing win against Norwich City already a thing of the past, Liverpool will now be looking for a similar victory against Fulham on Tuesday as a stepping stone for form to Wembley. The Reds showed the desire to win right from the beginning in the game against Norwich and there is no doubt that a similar approach will be on display when they walk out to face Martin Jol’s men.
Liverpool are currently chasing Everton for a seventh place finish in the table. The Blues got the better of Fulham two days ago at Goodison Park. Now, the Cottagers will be hoping for a little more luck from the Red half of Merseyside.
Better Luck This Time?
Fulham manager Martin Jol was missing from the sidelines for the game against Everton due to a chest infection and maybe his absence played a part in Fulham’s defeat that afternoon. However, the news making the rounds is that the Dutchman has been given the green to travel to Merseyside and link up with his squad ahead of the game. First-team coach Billy McKinlay was in charge of the Cottagers in the match against the Toffees.
Team News & Tactical Brief
Apart from Lucas Leiva and Charlie Adam, Liverpool don’t really have any grave injury concerns to fret about ahead of the game on Tuesday. However, Andy Carroll was left out of the squad against Norwich as a precautionary measure due to a slight groin injury and is set to return to the first team after training on Monday.
This week, Kenny’s prime strategy is to field considering the best starting XI remains available for the FA Cup final against the Blues. In the game against Norwich, the likes of Downing, Bellamy and Henderson were given a starting chance. Now, have they performed well enough to cement a starting spot for the final on Saturday is something that is restricted only to Dalglish as of now.
Chances are, Kenny has already figured out his starting XI for FA Cup final and could rest some key players against Fulham. The likes of Gerrard, Bellamy and Downing are unlikely to start. Instead, we could see Spearing and Shelvey starting in the center with Henderson and Maxi on either flank.
The back four could pretty much be the same as the one against Norwich unless Kenny feels Glen Johnson needs to get more game time after his return from injury; in which case, Martin Kelly will start at right-back for Liverpool. Also, with Carragher’s chances of featuring in back-to-back Premier League games now looking bleaker, it looks like Sebastian Coates could start alongside Daniel Agger.
But the real problem for Kenny lies in attack. Ideally, Suarez and Carroll should start, now that they are clicking. Either Suarez may get the nod in order to further strengthen his confidence or Carroll could start to earn a few minutes on the pitch before the FA Cup final. Either ways, with a lone striker upfront, Liverpool’s strategy will change after that substitution which could see Suarez come off and Carroll come on.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Reina; Johnson, Coates, Agger, Enrique; Shelvey, Spearing; Henderson, Kuyt, Maxi; Suarez
Probable Starting Lineups
The Cottagers’ injury problems don’t just end with Martin Jol. The likes of Zdenek Grygera, Bryan Ruiz and Steve Sidwell are still missing first team action, watching the game from the stands. On the bright side, right-back Stephen Kelly is set to return to action after missing out the games against Wigan and Everton due to a wrist injury.
Fulham’s stand-in coach Billy McKinlay admitted after the Everton defeat that his side was simply lacking the gusto right from the start; which is what is expected to change in the game against Liverpool. The return to Anfield for John Arne Riise will surely spur him on right from the moment the whistle is blown while the likes of Danny Murphy and Pavel Pogrebnyak will give Fulham that spark they lacked at Goodison Park.
Damien Duff and Karim Frei who provide the Cottagers with enough ammunition on the flanks are most likely to get the nod once again. Murphy and Belgian international Moussa Dembele will most likely start in the center of the park while Pogrebnyak and Clint Dempsey will be looking to trouble a rare Liverpool defensive lineup.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Hughes, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Duff, Murphy, Dembele, Frei; Dempsey, Pogrebnyak
Key Match Facts
- Fulham’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in December was only their fourth over the Reds in 21 Premier League encounters.
- The Cottagers have failed to score in six of their last nine Premier League games against Liverpool.
- Liverpool beat Fulham 10-0 in a League Cup second-round match at Anfield in 1986.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Preparing For the Kill
It is hard not to see why he shouldn’t be the one catching all the attention on Tuesday night. After a scintillating hat-trick against Norwich City which included a wonderful strike 45 yards away from the goal, Suarez has shown how well he is prepared for the upcoming FA Cup final against Chelsea. He is, without a doubt, our ‘Player to Watch Out For’.
Liverpool 1 – 0 Fulham
The Reds are unlikely to tone down the tempo at this stage of the season, especially when they are looking at a second FA Cup victory and avoiding their worst campaign since the 1953/54 season. Plus, it is also a test for most players on the team to showcase why they need to feature in Kenny’s plans next season. We see a victory for the Reds in this game.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past