The wait time between matches is about to get a whole lot shorter, with Liverpool set to play three matches in the next seven days and seven before the month of December is over. That's fantastic from a viewing standpoint, but from a squad fitness perspective, things have gotten a whole lot murkier with the news that Daniel Sturridge will be evaluated today after rolling his ankle in training. Oh.
His absence complicates matters moving forward, but right now the focus has to be on getting results no matter the state of the squad's personnel. There's matches Liverpool absolutely have to win, and each of the next three fit into that category, especially considering that most would be happy with a point apiece from three of the four that follow. It's make or break time for Brendan Rodgers' squad, and if they manage to come through this month in or around the top four, the spring's going to be an awfully exciting time for Liverpool supporters.
They can't afford to do too much navel gazing or daydreaming, of course, and they'll need to be attuned to the task at hand tomorrow at the KC Stadium. Hull City have been abysmal away but average at home; eleven of their fourteen points in the Premier League have come in front of their home supporters, most recently in a narrow 1-0 win over Sunderland at the start of November. Two straight losses have heaped the pressure on Steve Bruce, however, with an 0-1 loss to joint-bottom Crystal Palace in their latest outing underlining the depth of their struggles.
Bruce will be without mainstay Paul McShane, but expects to have Curtis Davies, James Chester, and Robbie Brady available. Against Crystal Palace, Hull lined up with Allan McGregor in goal, Ahmed Elmohamady, Davies, McShane--who will be replaced by either Abdoulaye Faye or Alex Bruce---and Maynor Figueroa across the back, Tom Huddlestone, Robert Koren, and Jake Livermore through the midfield, and George Boyd, Yannick Sagbo, and Brady in attack.
Johnson Agger Sakho Flanagan
Henderson Coutinho Moses
As noted, the biggest squad news of the weekend comes in the form of the Sturridge injury, and while Iago Aspas is apparently close to making his return, there's no replacing one of the league's leading goalscorers. Aspas should be back shortly, with Jose Enrique still two months away and Sebastian Coates on the long way back from his knee injury.
That leaves uncertainty in attack, and in defense things are similarly unclear given recent developments. Glen Johnson once again seems the only sure thing (even after a less than impressive performance against Everton), and Jon Flanagan's display in the derby should see him granted another start. Rodgers' decisions in central defense will be interesting, as Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure seem due to minutes despite Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel emerging as the preferred pairing in recent weeks. So let's guess Sakho because reasons.
Rumors of Philippe Coutinho's absence from training yesterday causes some concern about how the front six lines up; Steven Gerrard, Lucas, and Jordan Henderson appear likely to continue in their respective roles, while it's possible that Joe Allen gets another start after making his return last weekend. I'm hoping the talk about Coutinho is just that, and that he starts in an advanced band of three along with Henderson and Victor Moses. If he's out, then it would likely be Allen or Luis Alberto coming in.
Sturridge's injury leaves Luis Suarez as the only striker available, so the Uruguayan will be leading the line regardless of the formation and personnel around him. There was talk yesterday (shock!) that he suffered some sort of training ground injury as well, but that probably didn't happen because my brain wouldn't be able to handle injuries to Sturridge and Coutinho and Suarez so back off, life.
Kickoff tomorrow is set for 2:05PM GMT/9:05AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 set to air the match live in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying coverage in the US. We'll have the matchday thread earlier in the day with team sheets an hour before kickoff, and the overnight post will carry any pre-match discussion up until that point. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.