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Match Preview: Liverpool v. FC Utrecht, 09.30.10

Matchday two in the group stage of the Europa League.

Apologies for the lateness and the forthcoming brevity---busy day for me that has no signs of relenting.

Liverpool travel to the Netherlands to face FC Utrecht, who currently sit in the 12th spot domestically and are level with Napoli on one point after matchday one. The Dutch side played out a scoreless draw with the Italians two weeks ago, and, aside from a 2-0 loss at Parkhead against Celtic, it's the only time they've been held scoreless in the competition. They progressed past Celtic with a 4-0 drubbing in the return leg and beat SK Tirana and Lucerne previously.

They're led in the Eriedivsie by Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who, aside from having one of the best names in European football, has netted seven goals in seven league matches. He's been lighting it up in Europe as well, with six goals in six qualifying matches prior to the group stage. Nana Asare and Dries Mertens provide the goalscoring support, and goalkeeper Michel Vorm has started all 14 matches thus far.

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?

Johnson Carragher Kyrgiakos Kelly
Kuyt Lucas Poulsen Jovanovic

---News about the squad came out earlier today; most notably, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger are left out, while Fernando Torres makes the trip after watching the last match from the stands.

---Easy to name Dirk Kuyt here, as it's a homecoming for the Dutchman. The rest of the midfield doesn't play out so clearly, and it'll be interesting to see if Lucas gets a lifeline from Roy Hodgson. I wouldn't be surprised to see a more "defensive" central midfield partnership that leaves Raul Meireles out, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

---There's really no choice at the back other than Martin Kelly, and I mean that in the most literal way possible. Danny Wilson didn't make the squad, Agger's at home, and Paul Konchesky and Fabio Aurelio are injured. Enter Kelly.

---I know that Torres' inclusion is a big deal, but I'm not so sure that he starts. I'm not exactly in love with the idea of him traveling and not playing/making a late cameo, although that does leave fresher legs for Blackpool's visit on Sunday.

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

Continuing to make this one a feel-good---Liverpool haven't dropped any points thus far in Europe despite some underwhelming performances, and a 100% record regardless of the competition is a good thing. It certainly won't be easy, but if they can grind out a result tomorrow and six points out of six in their first two group stage matches would be a great way to start.

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

I think 2-0 Liverpool after another shaky first half. Kuyt with the sentimental goal on his return, and David Ngog to extend his European success.

This one's televised stateside and in the UK---GolTV for the former and ITV4 for the latter. For those that have neither, a matchday post will be up tomorrow morning with news and links for ways to watch.

Have a good Wednesday, all.

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