November 09, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Martin Jol will be under considerable pressure when his Fulham FC side take on Rodgers’ Liverpool FC at Anfield. Liverpool on the other hand go into the match wanting to secure all three points after a 2-0 loss against a wonderful Arsenal, where the Reds looked lost for majority of the game.
The last meeting between the two had Daniel Sturridge scoring his first career hat-trick at Craven Cottage in a match that ended 3-1 in the Reds’ favour. The encounter before that had four different Liverpool men grabbing a goal each.
Fulham will be looking to avenge these two defeats and would want to escape the ‘relegation form’ they are suffering from. A win would silence the rebelling fans and would give Jol some more time before new owner Shahid Khan is forced to take decisions regarding the change in management. At this point, Martin Jol would even a take a draw against a strong Liverpool side.
Liverpool FC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Liverpool could not have hoped for a better start to the season. The Reds managed to get three wins on the trot, including one against last year’s league champions and arch-rivals, Manchester United. After getting 9 points out of 9, Liverpool ran into some dry form drawing Swansea, losing against Southampton and losing against United in a Capital One Cup clash. However, they came back into form with the new threat of Luis Suarez returning and managed to score 12 goals in the next 4 matches. However, Liverpool had to return empty handed from a trip in the Emirates, with no Red finding the back of the net and the team eventually succumbing to a 2-0 loss.
But there is a disguised silver lining in this match for Liverpool. As wrong as it is to say this, with Steven Gerrard being ruled out because of a hip knock, Liverpool might be able to test a midfield without him; the 33 year old had looked completely out of sorts against Liverpool. It is not to say that the iconic captain is not a world-class “top, top player”. But a player his age probably deserves to be rested and while Rodgers perhaps may not have the audacity to rest the influential captain, the injury would give him the chance to tinker with his options. Especially since Fulham are now basically fighting to stay out of relegation, Rodgers shouldn’t be too scared by Gerrard’s omission.
Jordan Henderson can perhaps feature in his favored Central Midfielder role alongside Lucas Leiva. The young 23 year old Englishman has been the unsung hero of Liverpool’s season so far. Even though he has had his lows, the ex-Sunderland man has not given up and has visibly given his 100% in every match. The best match he has had so far was when he was playing in the centre alongside Gerrard (Lucas being ruled out due to suspension) against Crystal Palace.
The Reds will also be boosted by the return of Philippe Coutinho. Coutinho got 45 minutes in the match against Arsenal and had a good game. The only time Liverpool looked threatening in the match was after the arrival of the Brazilian on the pitch. While it isn’t certain whether Rodgers will start with him or Joe Allen (with Henderson moving forward in Coutinho’s role), it would be the ideal thing to do. Rodgers should perhaps start with Coutinho and replace him with Victor Moses or Luis Alberto after about an hour on the pitch.
The Suarez-Sturridge partnership couldn’t work wonders against Arsenal but the two forwards will look to change that in this match and return to their threatening form. With the Fulham defence struggling considerably, there is no reason why Liverpool can’t do that.
The Liverpool defence has not kept a single clean sheet after the omission of Daniel Agger (first due to injury, then tactical reasons). Does this say something? Probably not, but it is a significant fact. While Rodgers has been credited as being a ‘tactical genius’ with the 3-5-2 formation working for the club in a few of the matches, the Northern Irishman should have the flexibility to change it when it is required. It is safe to say that the Arsenal attack exploited too many leaky gaps in the 3 man back line and found it way too easy in the first half. While this formation might work again for Liverpool against Fulham, Rodgers should probably assess going back to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 system sometime in the future.
The one thing which might work against Liverpool is that they presently have a very weak left wing-back. With Enrique out due to injury, Aly Cissokho is required to take his spot. Although it is perhaps early and harsh to criticise the man who is adjusting to Premier League ways, Cissokho’s outing against Arsenal has really irked Liverpool fans. Rodgers was forced to take him out in the half time break. Cissokho will probably still start the match against Fulham and should use this opportunity to do well for the club where he wants to make his stay permanent.
To modify Mourinho’s recent comments, perhaps Liverpool has a team for it, but not a squad. This game is very important for Liverpool and all the games from now on will be. What happens from now till end of December will determine whether the Anfield outfit is competent to mount a successful of a top 4 challenge.
Liverpool FC Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-1-2): Mignolet(GK); Toure, Skrtel, Sakho; Johnson, Henderson, Lucas, Cissokho; Coutinho; Suarez, Sturridge
Probable subs: Allen, Sterling
Fulham FC – Team News, Line-up and Formation
Over the past 12 months, Fulham have only managed 36 points from the last 40 matches. You can see why Fulham fans are in a lot of agony. Fulham’s loss against Leicester ended any progression in the League Cup, ending a shot at silverware.
Fans had higher hopes from Martin Jol, the man who managed to get a smooth and skilled finisher in Dimitar Berbatov, a determined veteran in the top draw Scott Parker; keep the player who does so well for Costa Rica, Bryan Ruiz and achieved what Fulham think they deserve: mid-table standings.
But mid-table too seems like a long shot seeing Fulham’s performances so far. Things seem to be heading from bad to worse. Berbatov and Ruiz look out of their depth in this team. Jol feels helpless and is making hapless comments like ‘we are not Real Madrid’ and that fans have very high expectations from the team.
There is no denying that Jol is a good manager. His record at Ajax correctly illustrates this (Jol won 50 out of the 77 matches he managed for the Dutch club). But nothing is working out for the Craven Cottage club at the moment. Their defence looks completely out of sorts, the Manchester United defeat being the perfect example. There is a complete lack of defensive cohesion.
There is a big lack of consistency. Berbatov does well in one match; in the next match he is awfully poor. Another problem with the Fulham team is that the players are not the fastest, and hence are susceptible to counter attacks.
Given the threat of Liverpool’s strikers, the Fulham defenders will have a lot of inconvenience shielding their goal. The need to get a positive result might force Martin Jol to put more options in the midfield and keep Ruiz out. While we can only debate on this, it would be interesting to see what trick Jol works up in order to appease his fans who are growing more and more impatient with every match. Jol will have the added pressure of pleasing his new owners as he runs the risk of being shown the door very soon.
Fulham FC Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-1-1): Stekelenburg(GK); Senderos, Hughes, Amorebieta, Richardson; Dejagah, Parker, Sidwell, Kasami; Ruiz; Berbatov
Probable subs: Taraabt, Bent
- With the exception of the game against Crystal Palace, Fulham have not scored more than 1 goal in a game.
- Liverpool go in with the Anfield Advantage. The Reds have won 6 of the 10 matches they’ve played and 4 of them have been at home.
- Fulham also average the lowest number of shots on goal at just 8.3 per game.
- No Fulham player has scored more than 2 goals so far this season.
Scott Parker is Fulham’s best passer, with 90% pass accuracy over his 8 appearances so farand the highest average passes per game (53.6).
- Luis Suarez has an average Shots per Game ratio of 5.2. The Fulham player with the highest SpG ratio is Kasami with 1.9.
Players to Watch Out For
Pajtim Kasami (Fulham)
With the pressure just increasing for Fulham, the 21 year old Swiss international will be looking to make a mark on the team and help secure the essential 3 points. Having already scored a stunner against Crystal Palace, Kasami would be looking to do well against the side he briefly briefly spent eight months in, as a teenager. Kasami has the talent. But will he be able to deliver in a crucial test for Jol’s side?
Liverpool 3 – 0 Fulham
Liverpool go into this match with a lot of confidence despite losing the last game. Fulham on the other side have lacked structure and have looked vulnerable every time they have stepped out so far and unless the players pull out something spectacular from their hats, this game is certainly headed in one direction.