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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Bolton, 10.31.10

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How about we usher some football back into the fray?

Even if it means continuing to drive yourself crazy with the dissonance---I want Liverpool to win. I don't want Roy Hodgson to stay. If Liverpool wins, Roy Hodgson might stay. If Liverpool loses, Roy Hodgson might go. Mighty clear, then.

Brief kudos to Noel for doing a fabulous job this week keeping us all up to speed on the comings and goings off the pitch. As I mentioned last week, he's going to be covering most of that stuff while I try to get my head around the seemingly infinite amount of shit that I have to get done over the next little while. In my experience the day-to-day minutiae is the most difficult to write about, particularly when the person creating most of the news has a habit of creating goosebumps even with the simplest of comments. "A lot more expensive failures," he says.

Anyhow, very grateful for the work Noel's been doing, and I can tell by the response from those who keep coming back that others feel similarly.

I think we can all agree that it's time to get back to action, though, and tomorrow presents Liverpool with a difficult test. Blackburn at Anfield was one thing---an opposition that's not fond of pressing with a manager who's got the tactical sense of a rock is never a great combination, as we've seen in the first few months of Liverpool's season.

But Owen Coyle and Bolton, as others have noted previously, present a plenty different task than Allardyce and Rovers. Coyle briefly inspired at Burnley before leaving for pastures of a slightly greener shade at Bolton, and after arriving he did a bit of renaissance work to bring a more fluid, attacking style to the club. The easy money's on him to do this again tomorrow, and for anyone following Liverpool under Roy Hodgson, that's not the most promising prospect. Whereas Allardyce seemed content to Hodgson it at Anfield and lay the blame on missing his two first-choice central defenders, I can hardly see Coyle letting Liverpool completely dictate the pace.

Coyle's been remarkably consistent with his team selection so far---nine players have started all nine Premier League matches this season, and Jussi Jaaskelainen and Gary Cahill have started seven a piece to round out a familiar eleven. Without any major injury news, it's likely to be the same thing on repeat for Coyle, which means that in attack we'll see Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander up front, Lee Chung-Yong and Martin Petrov wide, and Stuart Holden and the tough-tackling Fabrice Muamba in the middle.

As for the Reds:

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?

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Reina
Carragher Kyrgiakos Skrtel Konchesky
Lucas Meireles
Maxi Gerrard Cole
Torres

---Same eleven as Blackburn. Given the injuries to Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt, along with the race to fitness for Glen Johnson, I think this is the best eleven Roy can select.

---Sotirios Kyrgiakos has shot to prominence after his fantastic display last week, and there's no reason he wouldn't feature tomorrow alongside Martin Skrtel. Jamie Carragher filled in capably at right back, and Paul Konchesky was much more solid as well. I still think Liverpool can be better at the back, which is a strange concept given their successes in seasons past, but that's contingent on a fully-fit grouping of Johnson, Agger, and Fabio Aurelio. And it may or may not involve Carragher at this point.

---Lucas and Raul Meireles have to start again in central midfield, don't they? Their partnership seemed to be a world apart from anything else this season, especially anything involving Christian Poulsen. The Brazilian and Portuguese combined to cover plenty of ground, they closed down quickly, and they were able to dictate and spread play for nearly the entire match.

---The front four was similarly effective last week, obviously marked by the return of Fernando Torres' name to the score sheet. I think Steven Gerrard has been quietly putting together a solid campaign despite the struggles, and he's looked best back in the forward role. Getting Torres back firing is surely important, but the influence of Gerrard, Maxi, and Joe Cole last week was just as vital.

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

Normally I wouldn't tout a match against Bolton as an opportunity for Liverpool to assert themselves as a squad worth watching, but I think tomorrow is just that. The reasons mentioned above make Bolton a tougher task than either of the sides that Liverpool's taken all three points from earlier in the season. A win tomorrow, away from Anfield, against an opponent that's going to try to take the match to Liverpool, could be a sign that things are on their way to changing. If we see the same propensity to sit back and let the opposition dictate the pace, however, it's as clear an indication as any that last weekend was a one-off.

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

The breathless optimist in me says 2-1 Liverpool. Nothing stunning, but an efficient display and something inching towards progress yet again. I fear it will only confuse me further.

Finally some proper TV coverage for this one---Sky Sports 1 in the UK and Fox Soccer Channel stateside. Later than usual kickoff time in the US because of the time change in the UK, which is welcomed after a few early-morning debacles recently. For those without any sort of television access, streams and links will be posted in the matchday thread an hour before kickoff.

Enjoy your Saturday everyone, and as you get ready for Halloween, steel yourself with what's surely the finest anthem of the season: