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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Wolverhampton, 12.29.10

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Fingers crossed, Liverpool take to the pitch for the first time in two weeks.

Like me, you're probably thinking, "oh great, another f***ing match preview, that's all this asshole does lately." Obviously you're right, just be glad you're not the one writing it.

Tomorrow promises to be much closer to the prospect of an actual match, however---no news about matchday pitch inspections, nobody lamenting a lack of undersoil heating (the new litmus test for whether or not you're in the know about English football), and no talk of apocalyptic storms approaching Merseyside. They are approaching North Dakota, but that's of little consequence for anyone here other than myself. Good time to make an exit.

And as Noel mentioned earlier, it's also a good time for Liverpool to get their shit together, as the match with Wolves will be the first in a stretch that sees the Reds play 8 matches before January ends. Nowhere to hide over the next five weeks, and it's not like things will get any easier come February, with at least 6 matches on tap in those four short weeks. If Liverpool can't get themselves up and running soon, this season could be lost in a flash with little time left to recover.

That's nearing hyperbole for the time being, and if there's any side for Liverpool to get on track against, it'd be Wolves. Bottom of the table and winless away from home, Mick McCarthy's men have found their third Premier League season to be mighty difficult. They've not been a complete disaster, though---they took all three points from City at the Molineux and have kept things close with nearly every side they've faced, aside from the 3-0 loss to Blackburn at the start of the month. Keeping it close hasn't equaled points, particularly on the road, and the Midlands club has earned only one point all season when they're the visiting side (seven straight losses after drawing their first away match with Everton in August).

But as usual, that doesn't make this one a walkthrough. Wolves will arrive at Anfield with a few injury concerns---their official site has Michael Mancienne, Kevin Doyle, Karl Henry, and Michael Kightly as either doubtful or surely missing. But as noted on the quality Wolves Offside by DJ, there's been flashes of hope despite the absence of more than a few regular first-teamers. McCarthy has selected the same squad in the last two league matches with very different results---a gritty 1-0 win over Birmingham, and a disappointing 2-0 loss to Wigan, both at the Molineux. As mentioned, though, it's been a vastly different story on the road. Sound familiar?

Liverpool, then:

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 Kyrgiakos Skrtel Aurelio
Meireles Lucas
Kuyt Gerrard Maxi

---As was the case on the weekend, no new injuries to report. Jamie Carragher and Jay Spearing remain the only certainties to miss. I suppose you could slide any number of alienated squad players in the "doubtful" category, but as of writing it's only Carragher and Spearing.

---Hey, the same side I've predicted for the last two canceled matches, original! But seriously, just start Fabio Aurelio over Paul Konchesky already, keep Lucas and Raul Meireles in central midfield, push Steven Gerrard into a supporting role behind Fernando Torres, leave Ryan Babel and Milan Jovanovic on the bench to rot because they're making too much money, and sit back to enjoy the show.

---A 4-2-3-1 makes more sense, as a couple of you noted prior to the last match that didn't happen, so hopefully we see something that resembles a tactical approach playing to the personnel's strength. Instead of, I don't know, 10 men behind the ball and a striker left all alone in the opposition half, feverishly tucking his hair behind his ear and looking disillusioned because of a lack of service.

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

No secret that Liverpool's best asset this season has been playing at home. Their last two matches---West Ham and Aston Villa---have been about as comfortable as it gets, but they've also been relatively void of meaning. Neither team really showed up, and while it was nice to see Liverpool waltz on both occasions, it didn't entirely convince me that Liverpool are a force to be reckoned with.

They've been good at home, no question, and winning four straight at Anfield has to boost their confidence heading into tomorrow. They can't assume that it will go the same way, though. It might very well end up being a repeat of West Ham or Villa, but if they come back after two weeks off having prepared to jog past an underwhelming opposition, I think there's cause for concern.

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

A cancellation on Sunday shouldn't be any cause for a change in optimism, but for whatever reason I'm saying 3-1 to Liverpool. I think it's mostly down to the fact that I'm leaving Fargo. But also, Liverpool can be good and other generic positive sayings. Go team.

This is the first match in awhile that causes some trouble for viewers---folks in the UK won't have any problems, as it's live on Sky Sports 1. Us stateside will struggle, though, with the match scheduled only for a delayed showing on Fox Soccer Plus. That means stream viewing will be the only way to catch the match live stateside, so I'll have the matchday thread up with stream links and news before I venture into the wild with my wife and her parents.

Hope you enjoy the day, and let's hope we have some football to look forward to tomorrow.