It's getting harder and harder to slog through these previews knowing full well that they're not much fun to write--or read, for that matter--when there's so little riding on what's to follow. So for the next few weeks the point will remain the same, just in an abbreviated, more efficient manner. Sorry to those who enjoy a more meandering path in the buildup, but let's just get to the points and look forward to Liverpool finishing off the season on a positive note.
Mostly because then I could convince myself that a shorter preview might somehow have influenced Liverpool's display and subsequently do less work forever. Win-win. I think.
- They're not mathematically safe, but it'd be extraordinary to see Fulham relegated--they're on 40 points, five ahead of 18th-placed Wigan, and with five other sides in between them, worries about the drop shouldn't be too strong.
- Those worries do exist, though, most a result of the fact that Martin Jol's side haven't won a league match since April 1st. They lost last weekend 2-4 against Reading at Craven Cottage, which followed an away loss at Goodison Park and two other home defeats to Arsenal and Chelsea.
- Recent form has dipped, but Fulham have seven of their ten wins at the season at home, including a 3-0 victory earlier in the season over West Brom.
- As you'd expect, the suffocatingly indifferent but infinitely classy Dimitar Berbatov leads the squad with 13 goals in Premier League play, with Mladen Petric and Bryan Ruiz chipping in five a piece.
- Petric should available tomorrow along with Sascha Riether, but Steve Sidwell is still banned after receiving a straight red against Arsenal, which itself came on the heels of a return from suspension.
- Mark Schwarzer has started all but two Premier League matches in goal, and each of Berbatov, Riether, and Brede Hangeland have played thirty-plus. For Liverpool defender Jon Arne Riise has started 28 matches for the Cottagers, and earlier this week announced his retirement from the Norwegian national side as its most-capped player.
- Guess at a squad
Johnson Skrtel Carragher Enrique
Downing Henderson Coutinho
- Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger are shut down for the season, and it'd be surprising to see Martin Kelly or Raheem Sterling involved much over the next two weeks. Luis Suarez serves the third of his ten-match ban.
- Think Martin Skrtel slots straight in for Agger, which would slide Jamie Carragher over to the left side of central defense, where he featured a handful of times back in the fall. Other changes would be surprising but not unwelcomed.
- Biggest question in the midfield is who comes in and where he fits. I'll go with Shelvey because the offal's never been wrong about anything, and while I think there can be some interchange between Shelvey and Jordan Henderson, but I'd prefer to see the former in a more disciplined, deeper role. Henderson can do both, but Shelvey's looked lost and too irresponsible pushed higher up the pitch.
- I'd really like for Suso to get some time but don't see where; the most preferred change would be to drop Stewart Downing and plug the young Spaniard in on the right or have Henderson tucked in, but Rodgers doesn't seem prone to leaving Downing out ever. Ever. EVER.
- Fabio Borini will play at some point, and likely ahead of Suso, but I don't know that he'll get a start ahead of anyone else in the front four right now.