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Internationals Preview: Weekend Qualifiers and Friendlies

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carrollcapello

Liverpool's two biggest matches of the early season are divided by yet another international break, with all of the active national sides on the continent wrapping up their Euro 2012 qualifying campaigns, and World Cup 2014 qualifiers starting nearly everywhere else. Fitness concerns mean there's a bit less action than usual for Kenny Dalglish's side, but there's a decent amount taking part in qualifiers or friendlies around across the globe.


Friday Euro Qualifiers:

Slovakia v. Russia 7:15PM BST/2:15PM EST

A crowded top half of Group B means that Martin Skrtel and Slovakia are still very much alive for qualification, and a win tomorrow could see them top the group heading into their final match away to Macedonia. Tomorrow's hosts won the reverse fixture last September, with Miroslav Stoch netting the winner to see Slovakia start with six points in their first two matches. Last time out, though, they were humbled at home by Armenia, who will likely be on 17 points by tomorrow evening after hosting Macedonia. A win for Russia would all but eliminate the Slovaks, making this one of the more important fixtures on tomorrow's calendar.

Netherlands v. Moldova 7:30PM BST/2:30PM EST

The Dutch goalscoring orgy likely continues tomorrow in Rotterdam, with Bert van Marwijk's side playing host to Moldova. The visitors have only taken points off San Marino, who's stapled to the bottom on zero points and -49 goal differential. Regardless of the opposition, it's a safe bet that Dirk Kuyt will resume normal service in the starting eleven despite the fact that qualification is secured. Doubtful (and hopeful) that he'll play a full 90, especially with the more challenging trip to Sweden coming up on Tuesday.

Wales v. Switzerland 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST

The Welsh campaign has mostly been a disaster, with their only points coming from a 2-1 victory over Montenegro in early September. That win was arguably more important for England than it was for Wales, as it pushed Fabio Capello's squad closer to qualifying atop Group G. Craig Bellamy's been a mainstay in the side throughout qualifying and will likely see significant minutes against the Swiss tomorrow and Bulgaria on Tuesday.

Montenegro v. England 8:00PM BST/3:00PM EST

Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson will both miss the final qualifying match, but Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll will be on hand as England try to cement the Group G victory. They'll only need a point to do it, and Montenegro would need to close out with two straight wins to nudge Capello's squad out of the top spot. Downing's started two straight, while Carroll mostly nursed a hangover for two weeks before a brief spell on the pitch in the final minutes. So just expect the typical level of crazy coming out of the England camp, as well as the normal post-match deluge of patriotism-inspired erections and proclamations that England are the frontrunners next summer.

Czech Republic v. Spain 7:45PM BST/2:45 EST

Like the Dutch, Spain have found qualifying to be a leisurely affair and are a lock to advance on top of Group I. Pepe Reina hasn't found a way through behind Iker Casillas, who's played every minute of the Spanish campaign. Even with qualification secured I'd be surprised to see Reina get time, which means he'll be limited to sprinting down the touchline to hug David Villa.

Friday CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers:

Uruguay v. Bolivia 8:00PM BST/3:00PM EST

The long road to Brazil starts for Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates, both of whom played a vital role in Uruguay's Copa America victory this summer. They'll be looking to build off that success and the run to the 2010 semifinals in South Africa, and for many, the Uruguayans are one of the teams to watch in 2014. Obviously they need to get there first, and with both Suarez and Coates expected to feature, they'll look to start things off with a win at home.

Friday Friendly:

Costa Rica v. Brazil 3:00AM BST/10:00PM EST

Brazil's role as host makes qualification unnecessary, but they'll stay in action over the next week with friendlies against CONCACAF sides that don't pick up until the next round. First up is a trip to Costa Rica, where Mano Manezes will hope to continue the success his domestically-based players experienced against Argentina last week. And despite Sue's best efforts, Lucas has a firm grip on a place in the starting eleven, and will probably see time in both matches this week.

Saturday Euro Qualfiier:

Liechtenstein v. Scotland 6:30PM BST/1:30PM EST

The lone Euro qualifier on Saturday is a must-win for Scotland, who will need a victory and some help if they want to advance. They had a golden opportunity to nab the second spot against the Czech Republic, but a late penalty (with the questionable foul committed by substitute Danny Wilson) saw two points lost. Three points on Saturday and a result in Alicante on Tuesday might be enough, though, and it's likely that Charlie Adam will have a part to play in both.

That's that for the stage-setting, and now we can collectively peek through our fingers in hopes that everyone makes it to Tuesday in one piece. Then we hold our breath again before the general sense of nervousness and anticipation for United's visit next Saturday settles in. Basically it's going to be a really good week for your blood pressure.

But for the time being, you can at least enjoy the fact that the chicken dance might be making its way to a theater near you sometime soon: