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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Northampton Town, 09.22.10

Liverpool make their Carling Cup bow tomorrow night at Anfield.

Compared to Sunday, I'd say there's slightly different expectations in the build-up to tomorrow's match.

Not for the result, mind you---I think Liverpool need a win here, not just for progression in the competition, but for furthering (or creating) a feeling that things are moving in the right direction.

The atmosphere around the League Cup in recent years has steadily declined, despite being told that "it's back" any number of ways and any number of times. It has become, for the top sides, an exercise in youth development and keeping second-string goalkeepers somewhat fresh. The competition has produced some decent matches in the past few years, but it's not something that most folks are counting down the days for.

So it's here nonetheless, and the challenge will come in the form of League Two opposition Northampton Town. They're the only team left from the competition's lowest division, and they progressed via a couple of hard-fought victories up the ladder---they got past Brighton (League One) 2-0 in the first round, and defeated Reading (Championship) 4-2 on penalties after a 120' own goal from Matthew Mills leveled the match at 3-3.

The Cobblers have started their league season in less-than flattering form, with their only win coming against Southend a week and a half ago. They've drawn four and lost three, and outside of their performances in the League Cup they've had trouble scoring goals with any consistency. They've also allowed 15 goals in six matches away from home in all competitions, exacerbating the problems caused by the lack of production in front of goal.

On the scoresheet they're led by midfielder Kevin Thornton, who's scored twice in league and once in the Carling Cup. He's followed by striker Billy McKay and midfielder Andrew Holt (possibly a relative of Steve Holt?), both of whom have a goal apiece in league play and cup competition. Chris Dunn has started every match in goal since Oscar Jansson, the penalty hero against Reading, returned to Spurs, and he'll be behind a defense looking to keep its first clean sheet in over a month.

Onto the home side:

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?

Kelly Kyrgiakos Wilson Agger
Pacheco Lucas Spearing Jovanovic
Ngog Babel

---Obviously twenty minutes after I post I see this interview with Roy Hodgson, which apparently lays things out pretty cleanly---I was off on the positions of Agger and Wilson, but other than that on course.

---Again, formation means nothing, but I think if we see the names above we're going to get plenty of fluidity and overlap in the opposition half.

---We have to see Dani Pacheco tomorrow. Have to. I've resigned myself to hoping for cameo roles in league play and potentially the Europa League, but outside of injury there's no reason he wouldn't feature. For all the preseason talk about a larger role, we haven't seen much of late. Hopefully an appearance for Jonjo Shelvey as well.

---A lot of talk about Danny Wilson getting his first Liverpool start, and it would make some sense for him to feature. Martin Skrtel played a full 90 against United, and with Fabio Aurelio still on the mend, Daniel Agger might have to deputize yet again at left back.

---I don't typically look forward to seeing back-up goalkeepers in action, and while I'm not quivering with anticipation, I do think it'll be nice to see Brad Jones in a moving picture.

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

I think a mix-up in the starting eleven, regardless of the circumstances, could provide a bit of a jolt. Quite a few of the fringe first-teamers are attack-minded players (Jovanovic, Babel, Ngog, Pacheco), and if they feature at the same time I'm anticipating a front-footed Liverpool.

But as usual, they'll have to avoid shipping an early goal or leaving Northampton in the match late. That's not to say "leaving Northampton in the match" is something that's entirely within Liverpool's control, but I do think the Reds could and should dictate proceedings. It'd be nice to watch Liverpool approach a match everyone says they should win like they actually think they should win.

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

I'm saying 4-0 Liverpool. I think we get promising glimpses of the younger squad members, decent play at the back, and an effort that continues some of the positive feelings from Sunday.

Currently I'm unsure as to the status of match coverage---you can expect there to be streams available, and I'll have a post up tomorrow morning with links and other news.

Have a good one, all.

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