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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Bolton; Hodgson Exit On the Way?

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Ringing in the New Year with Hodgson and LFC; **Updates Below**

Whether you like it or not.

But don't fret! You've only misunderstood that you're upset with Roy Hodgson. Or that he's upset with you. No, that's not it. He's sorry you're upset. Er, you're sorry he's upset? Just read it yourself:

"Things have been misinterpreted. I was responding to a question about how it felt to be jeered by fans, making it clear it hurts me and I was disappointed by it because no-one wants to feel they are unpopular. It's not been an easy ride for me and I was not the first-choice appointment with a lot of fans. But if I have offended them in any way I deeply regret that. All I can do is apologise and make it perfectly clear there was nothing offensive in my comments.

"I was very pleased to get the job - I left a very good job to take it - so the last thing in my mind is walking away from a club like this or walking away from football. I want to be here, I want to change things, I want to turn it around and I want to help the club and the new owners get the success they want. I can only beg for the patience and the time we need to do it, especially considering the difficult start we've had I am confident given that time and the competencies I possess and the quality of players we have in the club - with the possibility of maybe adding to that in future transfer windows - this club will once again be up the top there.

"In the past there was a little bit more time and patience but that has diminished over the years."

Now that that's cleared up, feel free to smash yourself in the face. It's essentially my dad's favorite conversational phenomenon---the non-apology apology. "I'm sorry you feel that way" is the most frequently used, and there's plenty of variations, many of which we see Roy Hodgson use quite often. "I'm sorry there's been a misunderstanding." Oh, how apologetic. The man is clearly standing up to be counted now, see? He feels bad that we don't get it. Sorry you feel that way, Roy.

As good time a time as any to present Bolton and Owen Coyle, then, who are a decent-enough juxtaposition of Liverpool and Roy Hodgson. There's little pretense to Coyle and Bolton, and their success so far this season has been admirable. Playing solid, attractive football and reaping the benefits, Coyle's side visit Anfield tomorrow sixth in the table and seven points ahead of Liverpool. They've haven't earned a point at Anfield in seven years, but it's not so far-fetched to say tomorrow is the perfect time for them to break that streak.

Even more worrisome for Hodgson and Liverpool is that Coyle has announced his intentions to "be positive and play on the front-foot." No secret that Liverpool have struggled with sides that take this approach, and Bolton have shown that they can get results at home or away---they've lost four away from the Reebok, but only once have they lost by more than a goal.

Tomorrow they'll be missing a handful of regulars---defender Paul Robinson is suspended, midfielder Tamir Cohen is out on compassionate leave after the passing of his father, Chung Yong Lee is in the Asian Cup with Japan, and Stuart Holden and Gretar Steinsson could miss through injury. According to the BBC that could leave Coyle with a traveling squad of only 15; regardless, I'd guess the attacking duo of Johan Elmander and Kevin Davies along with the core of the defense manned by Gary Cahill and Zat Kinght will pose more than enough of a challenge for Hodgson's Liverpool.

And for that 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 Skrtel Agger Aurelio
Meireles Lucas
Kuyt Gerrard Maxi
Torres

---Jamie Carragher and Jay Spearing are still out, and Joe Cole apparently suffered some sort of injury during training midweek. That's no more likely to keep him out than Hodgson's blackballing, though, so nothing really changes.

---Steven Gerrard should not play in central midfield, Raul Meireles should not play on the right, Paul Konchesky should not start anymore, Daniel Agger should return to central defense, and Maxi Rodriguez should not be left out during the best stretch of his Liverpool career. These things do not escape 94% of the Liverpool-supporting world, but apparently they are slippery enough that Roy Hodgson cannot grasp them. I hope we see the squad above, but I'd probably also be quite surprised if we did. More than likely we'll get a squad composed of the same names and same tactical assemblage as against Wolves on Wednesday. Because if something doesn't work, try it again. And again. And again. And if it doesn't work then, just try it again.

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

I'd argue that the most important factor for Liverpool tomorrow is whether or not Roy Hodgson is on the touchline. If he shows up, produces a steaming turd of a formation and tactical approach, and then looks confused for 90-odd minutes, I feel confident in saying that Liverpool are well and truly f*cked. I suppose the only way out is to hope that in spite of his ignorance and incompetence, the starting eleven put together a string of play that leads to a goal, likely spurred by one of Pepe Reina's 50+ passes.

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

Pessimistic, me? Why, yes, I am. 1-1, points shared.. Okay, that's actually quite optimistic.

No clue how the match is televised in the UK as of yet, but it'll be on Fox Soccer Plus for viewers in the US. Typically I have that, but my Christmas gift from Time Warner is cable service that doesn't include standard definition channels and no way to correct it until midweek. Links for streams and matchday news will be up early tomorrow.

Hope you all have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and that we're all able to look forward to good things for Liverpool (and ourselves) in 2011.

**Updated**

So, yeah, Twitter musings are generally nothing to get all excited about, but around 30 minutes ago Jim Boardman, one of the more respected sources for Liverpool news, started a string of Tweets about a Times article regarding Fenway Sports Group's position on Roy Hodgson. You can follow him here, and here's the Tweets assembled into something resembling a cohesive post:

From The Times: RH has apologised to LFC fans for questioning their support, but his contrition has come too late to safeguard his future. "The club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), determined that he [Roy] is not the man to take the club forward." Hodgson "will be ousted as soon as a high-calibre replacement can be identified and recruited."

Hodgson "has made it clear that he will not tender his resignation despite presiding over worst start for 57 years and his relationship with supporters breaking down, so FSG will effectively take the decision out of his hands by actively targeting his successor.

"Should the right man become available Hodgson’s departure will be confirmed before the end of the season, although FSG will continue to bide its time in a bid to ensure that the problems facing the club are not exacerbated by any short-term decisions as was the case last summer after the removal of Rafael Benítez."

Apparently the story will be released in other newspapers over the next few hours and into tomorrow morning. Once there's something more concrete that I can get my mitts on (i.e., something where I don't have to pay to read), I'll update as much as possible. No telling what this means in the here and now, but at least the downward spiral hasn't gone entirely unnoticed by the brass.

Looks like that hoping for something better in 2011 might be starting to pay off.