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State of the Blog, Purslow Steps Down, and a Napoli Preview

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Against all odds, things continue to happen.

And unfortunately, Noel has turned his keyboard to dust.

Let me get the boring blog stuff out of the way first---you've likely noticed that Noel has been carrying quite a bit of the water over the past couple weeks, and has done so mighty well. A good part of bringing him aboard was that exact reason. The other part of bringing him aboard was that I was predicting a logjam of my personal and professional lives right about this time of year and, as luck would have it, I was right. About time I got a prediction right this season.

So this is how things will likely progress from here on out, with Noel covering most of the off-days and continuing to provide the occasional tactical, analytical, or confusingly existential essay. I'll be in charge of match previews, matchday, and match recap posts, but beyond that it's going to be a struggle. Not quite the long kiss goodnight yet, but I'm getting there.

Anyhow that's that for the blog, and thanks to everyone who's continued to comment and visit. Obviously it's been a busy past couple weeks, and reading the thoughtful comments you've been leaving have been greatly enjoyable for me, even if I've found the time to respond lacking.

To Christian Purslow, then, and it's mighty big happenings. From the official site:

Liverpool FC confirms that following the successful sale of the Club, Christian Purslow has decided to stand down from his temporary position as Managing Director.

Christian will remain as a Non Executive Director and will act as a Special Adviser to the new Owners.

New England Sports Ventures Chairman Tom Werner said: "We are delighted Christian has accepted our offer to help us and the Club, given his great experience and love for Liverpool FC. We will now begin a global search process for a Chief Executive Officer."

Christian said today: "I came to LFC to lead the Club through a sale process to get the best overall deal including, vitally, the removal of the debt. I am immensely proud of what we have all achieved. I now look forward to assisting the Owners in any way I can at this exciting time as they drive the Club forward to a bright future."

Let's start with the acknowledgment that he played what seemed to be an absolutely critical role in the sale of the club to NESV. For all the complaining and bitching that we've done about him in the time since his appointment (most of which was well-founded), he did come through when the club needed him most. Probably not the sort of stuff to earn him a place among Liverpool greats, but job done with the sale.

But while we've ignored it recently, his decision-making prior to providing the assist in pushing the sale through was questionable at best. He's largely credited with driving Rafa Benitez away from the club, and his football know-how was never going to bowl anyone over. He's a fan of the club, and we can all appreciate that, but aside from the sale (which, again, was obviously sort of important), I can't say that he's had any great impact.

No early rumors yet about a replacement for him, as this just broke in the past few hours. I'm sure there's plenty more to come, as this state of flux is only going to continue (thinly veiled reference to rumors that Roy Hodgson is gone after the weekend, with others stating that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, and Kenny Daglish all held back for the managerial overhaul).

Now, the football. Tomorrow's opponent presents the biggest challenge on paper in the group stages for Liverpool, as Napoli currently sit in the fourth spot in Serie A and were highlighted as the danger team prior to the start of the group stages. They've stuttered a bit in their first two matches, drawing first at home with Utrecht, and then needing an equalizer in the eighth(!) minute of injury time to share the points with Steaua Bucharest. An impressive feat even though points were shared, considering they were down 3-0 within 16 minutes.

But as mentioned, they're only four points off Lazio's pace domestically and two back from Milan and Inter. They haven't exactly been prolific in front of goal, particularly in the Europa League, but they're paced by Edinson Cavani (6 in league, 1 in Europe), Marek Hamsik (3 in league, 1 in Europe), and Marek Hamsik's hair (most definitely a crime against humanity). Former Liverpool man Andrea Dossena will most likely feature after starting every match thus far in league, and the Naples club will hope to avoid suffering only their second defeat of the season.

For Liverpool:

1. Who will start for Liverpool?
2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?
3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

We've already had the fun taken out of this by Roy Hodgson, but do it anyway. Like you'd rather work.

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Reina
Kelly Kyrgiakos Carragher Konchesky
Maxi Poulsen Spearing Jovanovic
Babel Ngog

---Not really a 4-4-2, but not really anything that will provide any sort of forward threat. Excited yet?

---The above link pretty much says it all---big names left at home for any number of reasons (mostly injury), and a squad that will probably make it mighty easy for Hodgson to blame if things don't go to plan.

---I'd like to see Ryan Babel get the nod after a decent enough cameo at Goodison, but I think I've given up hope on Dani Pacheco under Roy Hodgson. Like things are supposed to make sense. Probably not alongside David Ngog as I've drawn it for Babel, but in some sort of forward role.

---Christian Poulsen is back from his bereavement leave. What's the grace period on insulting someone's form after they lose a loved one? Does it depend on how close the relation is? Just asking.

2. What’s the most important factor for the Reds?

I'm not writing this again, because I know what I want, I know what you want, and unfortunately for all of us, we know what Roy Hodgson will give us. A big steaming turd of a tactical approach that will leave talented squad members looking frustrated and lifeless, followed by a vehement defense of the tactics that manages to insult our collective intelligence and kindly dismisses any accountability.

3. Who’s going to win and what’s going to be the scoreline?

I'm going to be pithy---2-0 Napoli. The death of my optimism.

Tomorrow continues DirecTV's coverage of the Europa League stateside, and you can go slumming on ITV4 in the UK to catch it. Matchday post and links for streams to follow tomorrow morning.

Take care all, enjoy your Wednesday