FA Cup 3rd Round Replay at Anfield Wednesday evening.
Since the two teams met last...absolutely nothing has happened on the pitch. Liverpool had their scheduled match with Tottenham postponed due to bad weather/lack of salt, and Reading's fixture with Newcastle was also postponed.
Both teams have made moves thus far in the transfer window, with Liverpool offloading Andriy Voronin and Andrea Dossena to Dynamo Moscow and Napoli, respectively, while Reading have brought in defender Andy Griffin on loan from Stoke City and Icelandic striker Gunnar Thorvaldsson from Esbjerg. Clearly this damages Voronin and Dossena's chances at making the squad tomorrow, but it seems that lack of registration at the time of the original fixture will prevent Griffin and Thorvaldsson from featuring.
No need to completely rehash what happened nearly two weeks ago--despite an almost full-strength starting eleven, Liverpool were outplayed for large spells of the match at the Madejski and were fortunate to come away with a chance at a replay after Dirk Kuyt dummied over Steven Gerrard's free-kick from thirty yards. It was, unfortunately, less than surprising, as Liverpool have failed to string together positive results and performances throughout the first half of the season. A stunning last-minute victory at Villa followed by a feeble, somewhat indifferent performance against Reading.
A few days ago Rafa reported that the squad is nearing full strength, with only Glen Johnson (knee), Martin Kelly (ankle), and Nabil El Zhar (ankle) missing through injury, and Javier Mascherano serving the last of a four-match ban incurred against Portsmouth. Albert Riera is ostensibly back, but I'd be surprised to see him play a major role. Other than that, the same personnel are available, although let's hope we'll see a different formation than the one that took the pitch at the Madejski.
Liverpool started with a 4-4-2 with Ngog in support of Torres up top and Dirk Kuyt and Fabio Aurelio on the wings, but there was little to shout about. A late game switch back to the 4-2-3-1, with Aquilani and Benayoun coming on, did nothing to change this, but I'm guessing that's what we'll see tomorrow. The formation, hopefully not the attacking impotence. Given the amount of time since they played last, you'd guess that the starting eleven would be as close to first-choice as it can get.
Rafa's thoughts on Reading and the FA Cup:
"We have to approach the game thinking about winning and not giving them any chances or any confidence that they can do something.
"In the Premier League you have to win but if you can't you say 'unlucky'. But in the Cup you have to win.
"The attitude is more important against teams from a lower division. After that you know you have some quality, but attitude is the key.
"This game (Barnsley) I remember and we were not doing badly. We had some chances and then conceded in the last minute. It was unlucky but it's the same situation now because it's a cup competition - you have to win and can't make any mistakes.
"We know the FA Cup is a massive competition, so we want to progress and go forward as much as we can.
"Our priority now is one game at a time, so the first one is the most important. It's a cup competition, so you can't make any mistakes.
"The FA Cup is a very good option for us to win something this year, so we have to approach the game thinking about winning.
"It would be very special to get to Wembley. We've been to Cardiff, but now we have to think about winning the first game."
Other miscellaneous news outside of tomorrow's match--some good, some bad. Let's start with the good:
--As of writing, Liverpool's youngsters are performing brilliantly in the Youth Cup against Leicester. Lauri Dalla Valle has already hit a hat trick, and Thomas Ince netting the other goal to put Liverpool up 4-0 in the first half. You can watch the match if you have the Eseason ticket through the club here. If you haven't seen Dalla Valle, take a look below. He's pretty damned impressive, and has to be knocking on the door to a first-team debut.
--Maxi Rodriguez due for a medical tomorrow? Be nice to wrap this up soon.
--Rafa is optimistic about the progress of Glen Johnson's rehabilitation, reporting that he looks "okay." Technical and efficient stuff from the gaffer.
--As mentioned in the comments section of yesterday's post about Hicks Sr., John Aldridge came out to refute reports that he was calling for Rafa's job. You mean the British press reported something inaccurate?
--And lastly, something that I'd rather not write about, but I've seen it mentioned in more than a few places today. Barry Glendenning weighed in on the Hicks Jr. fiasco yesterday, and he draws on video released from the Spirit of Shankly end of the season party in May 2009. Drudging up old news maybe, but shameful shit when it happened and shameful shit now. The footage shows the room full of supporters singing and chanting "Munich" along with a performer on stage, obviously in reference to the 1958 tragedy that saw 23 people lose their lives, including 8 United players and 3 staff. SOS issued a statement a few weeks after it occurred condemning the behavior, but it's gained renewed criticism in light of the crusade they were on over a supporter getting called "f*ck face." Hopefully the club and its supporters start to move beyond behavior that's inexcusable, "on the field, off the field, on the terraces and in the boardroom."