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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Blackpool, 12.26.10

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Previewing a match that might not actually happen. I'm that dedicated.

Actually it's because this provides a nice respite from watching my wife's cousin's kids open leagues of presents while I waste away in my isolated corner of the room and pour "more flavor" into my coffee. Holiday cheer and all that.

Before we get into the match heres and theres, make sure you read Noel's earlier post about the verbal diarrhea afflicting Roy Hodgson ---today it's Joe Cole that was lucky enough to be found in the crosshairs, and it's yet another indicator that Hodgson is an absolute joke. As Noel said, it doesn't need to be a huge secret that Cole has struggled, because it's the truth. But to use his struggles as another opportunity to deflect blame and try to make himself look better is shameful, and what's worse is that it's far from being the first time.

Oh, and then there's this from the Telegraph, which I assume came out after Noel's earlier post. Consider it part two of the most enraging Christmas gift you could imagine:

“I suppose you might say it’s been topsy-turvy in the sense that having been deified people have then started to crucify me but that’s part of the business.

“Two years ago Fulham drew 0-0 against Arsenal at the Emirates and the booing was quite incredible. Arsène Wenger was visibly upset and saddened by that reaction and at that time people were suggesting he’d had a good run and it was time to bring in the man with the magic wand. It’s been a great year what was achieved at Fulham will always live in my memory and remain a big achievement in my personal career and also the history of Fulham too.

"Getting the job at Liverpool was another major feather in my cap and the fact it hasn’t gone as well as I’d have hoped results-wise is just the nature of football. Maybe what we have realised is there is plenty of work to do here but I am certainly very satisfied with the job I have done here and I don’t feel any dissatisfaction whatsoever.”

So...Roy is Jesus...or God...does this mean Fulham were his disciples? Can I be Judas?

Anyway, football.

The second half of the season could quite possibly start tomorrow, and for Blackpool it's been a pretty fantastic Premier League debut. At current they're level on points with Liverpool with a game in hand, and the Seasiders have become nearly everyone's second team---they've got a likable manager, they play a watchable brand of football, and they've experienced enough success to cause everyone to take notice.

They come into tomorrow's match having lost only once since the beginning of November. The 3-2 loss at Villa Park was the only time the club dropped all three points in the past two months; they've won three and drawn three in that time, and they won their most recent match at Stoke two weeks ago. Ian Holloway's club have won nearly every type of match this season---they've blown teams out, stayed close and gutted it out, and have, aside from Arsenal and Chelsea, kept up with every opponent. And in Liverpool's case, the Tangerines more than kept up.

Holloway will have a little more of a challenge tomorrow, however---he'll be missing a slew of regular first-teamers through injury (Marlon Harewood and Matt Gilks included), and he's also without captain Charlie Adam, who'll be serving a one-match suspension. These absences don't leave Holloway completely floundering, though, and he'll be able to call on Ghanaian keeper Richard Kingson to replace Gilks. He'll also have Ian Evatt, Stephen Crainey, Craig Cathcart and Neil Eardley in defense, with David Vaughan, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, DJ Campbell, Luke Varney, and Neil Eardley to choose from in the midfield and attack.

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?

1. Who will start for Liverpool?

Reina
Johnson Kyrgiakos Skrtel Aurelio
Kuyt Meireles Lucas Maxi
Gerrard
Torres

---The injury list has continued to thin, and at present it's only occupied by Jamie Carragher and Jay Spearing. The big returns for tomorrow will be Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger, but I'd be shocked if the latter had a part to play.

---This is the same squad I picked to face Fulham before that match was postponed, and I'd guess that in the time that's passed, the only change is that Gerrard is probably a lock. I have no idea what this means for the formation---I'd guess its 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1, which is how I drew it up above. What I really can't see is Hodgson breaking up Raul Meireles and Lucas in central midfield---we know the man's inept, but jamming Gerrard into a central midfield role would just be irresponsible. And yes, I've left Aurelio in there, full well knowing that we'll see Konchesky. I'm just too fragile to pick Konchesky again.

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

Seeing as how this is away from Anfield, Roy Hodgson has one of the worst away records of any manager in football, and Liverpool have only one win and five points on the road, I think simply surviving is important. Not exactly an overwhelming level of confidence, and I'd like to say tomorrow could be the turning point for both Hodgson and Liverpool, but the only way that happens is if Hodgson is able to get this squad playing decent football away from home.

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

I just have a bad feeling about tomorrow---2-1 Blackpool. Hope upon hope that I'm terrifically and horribly wrong.

Television coverage tomorrow comes through on in the UK and Fox Soccer Plus in the US. If you're in-law dodging like I am, you can find stream links and matchday news here early in the day. All of this is assuming that a match actually will take place---if not, I'll plan on resuming the recap of 2010 that's been underway for the past week. And regardless, we can all resume the heavy drinking that's managed to get us this far.

Once again, Merry Christmas to everyone that's celebrating, hope you have a happy and safe holiday.