March 24, 2012 – 1500 GMT
Kenny Dalglish was left speechless and looking for an explanation as Liverpool inexplicably crumbled at Loftus Road on Wednesday. After seemingly cruising to a 2-0 win, the Reds managed to concede 3 times against a struggling QPR side to be an undesirable part of this season’s greatest comeback. So, what next for Liverpool?
The club is as far away from Champions League qualification as Charlie Adam’s penalty was from goal at Wembley. The Carling Cup had ensured that Liverpool have already qualified for the Europa League. Apart from the FA Cup run, Liverpool’s season is pretty much dead.
On the other hand, Wigan Athletic have everything to play for in the League and sit three points away from safety, thanks to their Saturday opponents’ defeat to Rangers. Roberto Martinez’s side displayed some wonderful football in the draw against West Brom and created enough chances to win a hat-trick of matches, let alone winning one.
Scoring goals has been a major concern for both Liverpool and Wigan, but creating chances hasn’t been. While Liverpool have scored 35 goals in 29 league matches, Wigan have scored only 25 goals, having played the same number of matches.
The Latics have a better away record than their home record, but will they have enough on the day to pick up anything from draw-friendly Anfield?
Team News and Tactical Brief
Kenny Dalglish’s decision to leave Andy Carroll on the bench against QPR, replacing him with Charlie Adam, came under the scanner. Irrespective of what the result had been, the former was constantly improving and forging a much-needed partnership with Suarez, while the latter was in dismal form. Surely, in the bigger picture, he should have stuck with Carroll-Suarez? Saturday should see the return of that partnership.
Martin Kelly and Charlie Adam both failed to finish ninety minutes at Loftus Road. While Kelly is a doubt and may recover in time, Adam will miss the match due to a twisted knee. Midfielder Lucas Leiva had been ruled out for the season months ago and Daniel Agger still remains unavailable through cracked ribs. Glen Johnson hasn’t recovered either.
Craig Bellamy’s ‘niggle’ (in the words of the Liverpool manager) seems to be more than that. The Welsh striker-cum-winger has missed three matches in a row and it would be a brave decision to push him into the line-up over Stewart Downing. Jordan Henderson will start on the right, but will be hampered by the presence of Carragher at right-back and the absence of the two flamboyant full-backs due to injury.
Steven Gerrard will start from deep in the centre of midfield after starting in a more attacking role at QPR, hoping to lend some stability in front of the central defensive pairing of Skrtel and Coates. Gerrard will again be the key in varying play from different flanks or directly towards Carroll. Luis Suarez was brilliant against QPR and is likely to bamboozle Wigan’s shaky defence with his movement; something that has become Liverpool’s biggest weapon.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Reina; Carragher, Coates, Skrtel, Enrique; Henderson, Spearing, Gerrard, Downing; Carroll, Suarez
Loyal Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has been his optimistic best of late, plucking out positives from every defeat. He also hasn’t been shy of being adventurous in his formations, although putting the ball in the back of the net has been a major problem.
Goalkeeper Michael Pollitt is still injured and so is midfielder David Jones. Martinez’s defensive line-up is unlikely to change in the match going with Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa at right-back and left-back, respectively. Antolin Alcaraz and Gary Caldwell will start as Wigan’s centre-backs.
Victor Moses, linked with a move to Liverpool, will start on the right wing and may switch flanks a lot in an attempt to exploit an injury-struck right side of his opponents. James McCarthy and James McArthur will provide the cover in front of the defence, with Shaun Maloney expected to join the duo in crowding out the centre of midfield. Reports suggest that Hugo Rodallega is set to face Liverpool and his return from injury could lift the spirits of Wigan Athletic. He will take Di Santo’s place as the lone man up front.
Wigan are likely to channelize their attacks through Victor Moses for large parts of the game and utilize the speed of Moses and Rodallega. However, although they are capable of playing some beautiful possession football at home, they’ll rely on quick counter-attacks at Anfield.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Al Habsi; Boyce, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa; Moses, McCarthy, McArthur, Maloney, Beausejour; Rodallega
Key Match Facts
- Liverpool have managed most number of draws (8) at home in the League.
- Liverpool have the 3rd best defensive record in the League (29 goals) and joint 2nd-best defensive record at home (10 goals).
- Wigan have just won once in their last 15 matches in all competitions.
- Wigan have been bottom of the Premier League since mid January.
- The reverse fixture finished goalless with Ali Al Habsi saving Charlie Adam’s penalty in the first half.
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch Out For
Luis Suarez (Liverpool)
Luis Suarez is gradually returning to his pre-ban form. The controversial Uruguayan striker is back to his old tricks and is giving defences a hard time all over England.
The Liverpool striker is the best source of creativity in the team and when he receives the ball at the edge of the box, you almost anticipate a piece of magic coming up. He is bound to run Wigan ragged on Saturday.
Liverpool 3-1 Wigan
Liverpool’s response from a major collapse is usually a strong one and Dalglish’s players would be well up to take out their frustrations on Wigan. Liverpool’s defence, earlier one of the best in the League, has been terribly vulnerable in the absence of Daniel Agger. Expect Wigan to score, but Liverpool to win comfortably in the end.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past
Here’s why Liverpool dropped points at Wigan earlier this season…