October 25th, 2014, 15.00 BST
Liverpool play host to Hull City on Saturday. The Tigers have proven to be extremely tough opponents for the Reds and last season, Liverpool lost 3-1 to them the first time the two took on each other. A lot has changed since then. In transfer activity alone, Hull have gotten a lot stronger. Liverpool have lost Luis Suarez and are also without Daniel Sturridge at the moment. The visitors would certainly be thinking that they have it in them to take full three points back home.
Team News, Tactical Brief and Predicted Lineup
Liverpool enter this game after a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday night and after a nerve-wracking, undeserving (as if that ever changed anything) win over QPR in the league. Therefore confidence can certainly not be too high in the red part of Merseyside.
Brendan Rodgers is still without Daniel Sturridge and that has caused the Reds a host of problems. This is not to suggest that the club is reliant on one man alone, but it the Englishman’s absence leaves Rodgers few options on a lot of fronts. It would be interesting to see if Mario Balotelli starts the match for the Reds. The Italian has come under a lot of criticism both for his on-field performance and off-field actions (albeit unfairly, perhaps) lately and he was substituted at half-time against Real Madrid. Balotelli has only scored one goal for Liverpool since his transfer and is yet to open his new Premier League account. Some of the criticism he has received is unwarranted but this might be because the Kop is used to a swift counterattacking style of play and their strikers scoring at their will. However, the fact that Balotelli does not prefer to, and really can’t, operate in a single-striker role also has to be put in the picture.
The Italian is more like a target man who needs to be fed to. He is one of the most talented centre forwards but unlike Sturridge and Suarez, he doesn’t create goals out of thin air. With the return of Sturridge, Balotelli will get the freedom to stay in the box as the ex- Chelsea man likes to drift wide and link-up with attackers. Fabio Borini should be getting chances but he seems very unwanted with the club at the moment. Hence it is difficult to know whether Balotelli will start. But if he doesn’t score again, don’t be too surprised. His fair assessment can only be made once he is played alongside Daniel Sturridge.
Raheem Sterling could operate as a false nine alongside Balotelli, or as seen in the second half against Real, alone up-front. The one big positive for Liverpool from the Real loss is that both Coutinho and Can looked good. Brendan Rodgers should be giving both the players a start so that the two can build on that performance and help Liverpool’s cause. One of Jordan Henderson or Joe Allen would be rested in case Emre Can starts. Adam Lallana, who came on as a second half sub against Real might start in case Liverpool play with a false nine. In the other case, one of Coutinho or he would start. Steven Gerrard is likely to take his defensive spot.
The defence has been a nightmare for Liverpool, but there is no alternative to it and so Liverpool fans could only hope it gets better from here on. The back four would comprise Manquillo (coming in place of Johnson), Skrtel, Lovren and Moreno. Mignolet will continue in goal because there is no alternative.
Probable Line-up: Mignolet; Manquillo, Skrtel, Lovren, Moreno; Gerrard, Can, Allen; Coutinho, Sterling; Balotelli
Hull arrive at Anfield off the back of an impressive 2-2 draw at Arsenal last time out, with only Danny Welbeck’s last-gasp equalizer denying them all three points. Steve Bruce would certainly be unhappy with the recent injuries and will be without Michael Dawson and club’s joint top scorer Nikica Jelavic for the game, with both players facing six weeks out of action.
Sone Aluko and ‘England prodigy’ Tom Ince could be given the chance in this case, as they try to replace the joint top-scorer Jelavic for Hull. Son Alex Bruce will probably replace Dawson for Steve Bruce. Allan McGregor was deputizing for Steve Harper, but even he is current struggling with injury so we would see third-choice goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic in goal for this match.
Steve Bruce will field his liked 3-5-2 (3-5-1-1) formation, which he has used to great advantage last season. We will see Chester, Bruce, Davies in a three man defence. Ahmed Elmohamady will start as the right wing-back with 20 year old Andrew Robertson starting as the left wing-back. The youngster has so far really impressed for the Tigers and would look to build on this form and give the likes of Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, trouble on the wings. Diamé, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore would fill the midfield/attack spots for Hull. Diame is the joint top scorer for Hull with four goals and the player looks in excellent touch at the moment. He would hope he can give the Liverpool midfield which looks extraordinarily average, a lot to worry about. We could see one of Ince, Aluko or Ben Arfa start in place of Jelavic. Record summer signing Abel Hernández would occupy the forward position. The Uruguayan international has scored three goals in five games for the Tigers. This can be another test for the 24 year old who would look to show Bruce and the supporters why he is worth the £10m on him.
Hull should look to attack Liverpool’s weak defence and will look especially threatening with crosses. The centre back partnership of Liverpool currently looks extremely fragile and Hernandez and co. can inflict a lot of damage with an early goal. The Hull defence should focus on containing Raheem Sterling. If they do so, their job can be made very easy as Liverpool’s attacking threat currently is next to nil.
Probable Line-Up (3-5-1-1): Jakupovic; Bruce, Chester, Davies; Elmohamady, Diamé, Huddlestone, Livermore, Robertson; Ben Arfa; Hernández,
- Hull (along with Chelsea and Everton) are one of only three teams to score in every Premier League game this season.
- Liverpool have conceded exactly one goal in each of their last five Premier League games at Anfield.
- Steven Gerrard has three goals in two starts against Hull at Anfield.
- Hull have failed to win each of their last 3 league trips to Anfield, shipping 10 goals in the process.
- After winning 11 Premier League games in a row between February and April, Liverpool have won just five of the subsequent 11 matches
- The Reds have kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 Premier League matches
Player to look out for
Mohamed Diamé (Hull City)
Liverpool 2 Hull City 2
Blast from the Past