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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Wigan, 11.10.10

Liverpool head to the DW to face the new holders of the 18th spot.

Ha, 18th. God, that's weak. What type of team would be in 18th at any point in the season?

***Stuffs hands in pockets and whistles, blissfully and forcefully ignorant***

It's been a tough start to the 2010-2011 campaign for the Latics---after their first two matches alone, they were on zero points and at a minus-ten goal differential. Not ideal. But then they bounce back and beat Spurs 1-0 at White Hart Lane, and after going 0-1-1 the rest of the month of September, they got another victory against Wolves to start October. Successive draws against Newcastle and Bolton followed, and now they're on a two-match losing streak after losing to Fulham and Rovers.

So, who the f*ck knows. They're certainly a capable side, even if they've had problems finding any sort of consistency. Factor in that Liverpool lost here last season and drew two years ago, and Wigan's form isn't necessarily the biggest concern.

They'll be without James McCarthy, Emmerson Boyce, and Mike Pollit through injury and the suspended Steven Gohouri, but they will have Hugo Rodallega and Charles N'Zogbia, who share the team's lead in goals with three a piece. Ali Al Habsi has taken over between the sticks, displacing former Liverpool man Chris Kirkland, who was in goal for both the 4-0 loss to Blackpool and the 6-0 defeat to Chelsea. Other probables include Jordi Gomez, Hendry Thomas, and Mohamed Diame in the midfield, and once-rumored Liverpool target Maynor Figueroa alongside Antolín Alcaraz and Ronnie Stam in defense.

Onto 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?

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Johnson Carragher Skrtel Konchesky
Lucas Meireles
Maxi Gerrard Jovanovic

---There's little team news today other than confirmation that Sotorios Kyrgiakos is still out with tonsillitis (which surely was some sort of mutated ninja strain) and Joe Cole continues his recovery from the luxury box. Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio are back in the mix.

---I'm fully tempted to just copy and paste from Sunday, but between Dirk Kuyt just returning, uncertainty about Johnson, and wondering what formation I can create to exclude Christian Poulsen, I have no idea. Maybe Kuyt rests, but it's mighty optimistic to slide Jovanovic in. I hope the staples remain in the front six---Lucas and Raul Meireles in central midfield (or, you know, right wing), Steven Gerrard more advanced, and Fernando Torres up top. Scary proposition after such an intense match Sunday, but I think they have to go for it.

---Jamie Carragher again, Jamie Carragher until he turns to dust. It's injury concerns to everyone else that make him the easy choice here, and to be fair, he was very good on Sunday when he was needed. If anything, Martin Skrtel was the nervier of the pair and almost gave it away a few times. I'd guess Johnson gets called back into action if he's truly fit, but Martin Kelly's got to be in contention on either side after his showing against Chelsea. Even if when he sprints he turns into the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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

Major, major letdown concerns. A tired squad, only two full days of rest, high on life, feeling like the corner's either being turned or soon to come, and an opposition that they "should" beat. I'm not panicking, but I think it's anything but a foregone conclusion. The first half against Napoli is still less than a week away, and while the personnel will be different, there's still the concern that after Sunday, the bottom could fall out.

That doesn't mean Liverpool need to play a completely self-conscious brand of football---I think we still want to see the style of play we saw for the first 45 on Sunday. They still need to press, still need to move fluently throughout the midfield, and still need to avoid inviting pressure. The last thing I want to see tomorrow is a regression to hoof, absorb, hoof.

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

I'm cautious here, but I think we see the upward trend continue, 2-0 Liverpool. A squad short on rest, but more than capable of taking all three points. By no means a done deal, but a match that Liverpool can win.

No word as to how this one is broadcast in the UK, but it's on Fox Soccer Plus in the US. Lucky me, I've got a half day tomorrow, so I'll be around with the matchday thread early in the day, and I'll update it as possible.

Have a nice Tuesday, all.

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