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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves, 01.26.10

Recapping the news of the weekend and looking to tomorrow's visit to the Molineux.

I'll post part II of the discussion between nate and myself on Wednesday, but for the time being, life (and football) goes on.

There's been quite a bit of semi-news over the weekend, so I'll start with that:

--Looks like Steven Gerrard will be a game-time decision for Rafa, as the skipper could be ready slightly ahead of schedule. I'm hesitant about this, especially considering he's been fighting for full fitness most of the season. I'd be okay with a similar squad we saw against Spurs. Don't get me wrong, he could be an absolute nightmare for Wolves to deal with, but the last thing I would want is for him to come back at 70% and aggravate his injury further.

--Rafa's had to do a bit of backpedaling in the Kenwyne Jones saga. Apparently Steve Bruce wasn't too impressed with Liverpool's advances, and now Rafa is distancing himself from the whole situation. The end of the window is coming up shortly, so we'll see if anything pans out. At this point, I'm not sold that Kenwyne Jones adds too much to the squad besides temporary depth, and once Torres returns he won't be seeing the pitch too often. By all accounts he's not the most amiable fellow, so no broken hearts if it doesn't work.

--In brighter news, Pepe Reina is currently working out a new deal with the club. As the article mentions, he's probably been the player of the year so far, keeping Liverpool in matches and generally kicking ass. He's susceptible to the occasional bobble or suicide run, but with what Liverpool's gone through this season, his form has been a constant positive. Lock him in.

--Damien Plessis, of playing part-time over the past couple of seasons fame, has been continually linked with a mystery club in Serie A, and now Rafa has revealed that he could be on his way out. On the one hand it's somewhat disappointing, as he looked to be one of the more promising youth players on the squad. Chances were few and far between, though, and with Masch and Lucas the preferred options in defensive midfield it doesn't look like anything's going to open up.

--And congrats are in order for a former Liverpool man, one John Arne Riise, who scored the winner in injury time for Roma in their match against Juventus. I know his time at Liverpool ended under the worst possible circumstances, but I still have great respect for him and follow his performances regularly. Plus, "there's never been a goalkeeper born who could keep this out."

On to Wolves...

Mick McCarthy's side currently sit one spot above the drop on goal differential and have hit a rough patch after starting the season brightly. They've lost their last three matches in league, including the 2-0 loss at Anfield on Boxing Day. Prior to that, however, they had won three of four, losing only to United in a match that saw McCarthy give his first-teamers a bit of a break. Not without controversy, but it proved to be a bit of brilliance, as they took all three from Burnley five days later.

Doubtful that we'll see something similar tomorrow, as the match is at home, where Wolves have played their best. Sylvain Ebanks-Blake was supposed to be the goal getter for the newly-promoted side, but it continues to be Kevin Doyle that leads the side in attack. The club has made two signings in the winter window--Adlene Guedioura and Geoffrey Mujangi Bia, both from French side RSC Charleroi.

Liverpool, meanwhile, continue to cope without Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson, Yossi Benayoun, and Daniel Agger. As mentioned, Steven Gerrard is no longer listed among the injured, but it would be slightly surprising if he was in the starting eleven. I'd guess the back four will again be Carra, Skrtel, The Greek, and Insua, although it might be a good time to rest the young Argentine. Depending on Fabio Aurelio's fitness, I'd be in favor of giving Insua a break from what has been to this point an up-and-down season. Probably no surprises in the midfield--we know Maxi has the quality to overtake Degen on the right wing, but it's probably a matter of match fitness for the new signing. Should Gerrard start, Aquilani will get pushed back to partner with Lucas or Masch, and Riera will hopefully feature on the left. No reason to believe that Ngog will displace Dirk Kuyt as the lone man up top. And with stuff like this coming out about the Dutch striker/winger/hopeful right back, he's got to feature. Legend.

These are the types of matches that Liverpool have to win, and it can't be done by sitting back. They've got to come out the way they did against Spurs, pressing early and often. It has the potential to be similar to the Stoke match, and Liverpool have to fight against that type of result with everything they've got. If this truly is a rebirth, or new season, or new team, matches like tomorrow are ones that can't slip away.