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Match Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves, 09.24.11

gerrard wolves

Liverpool look to tomorrow's match with an eye to getting back on track in league after losing two straight, but can take a few positives from the League Cup win over Brighton on Wednesday. Similar story for Wolves, who've also lost two straight after starting the season with two consecutive wins. They'll look to remain on a high after putting five past Milwall on Tuesday, and can be buouyed by the memory of handing Liverpool one of the most painful results of last season.

From a Liverpool perspective, it feels like this could go a million different ways. I find myself most curious about the team sheet---will Kenny Dalglish stick with Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam after a few disappointing performances, or will he shake things up and opt to include some of the faces we saw Wednesday? Watching Liverpool's first half performance against Brighton felt miles away from Sunday, and while it's not impossible to see Henderson, Adam, and Andy Carroll churning out a similar product, the general sentiment after Wednesday's victory was that a shake-up might be on the cards.

Whoever Dalglish selects, they'll face a Wolves side that's been largely up and down throughout the course of the early season. They notched victories over Blackburn and Fulham and earned an away draw at Villa Park to start their campaign before dropping two straight at home, surrendering five goals to Spurs and QPR and failing to find the net in each. Sprinkled among the results have been impressive performances in the League Cup, where they've scored nine goals in two matches and surrendered zero.

Mick McCarthy will have a few selection problems for tomorrow; Kevin Foley, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Ronald Zubar and Jody Craddock are all out injured, but he'll be boosted by the returns of captain Roger Johnson and Steven Fletcher. McCarthy has opted to go with a fairly consistent eleven thus far, with each of Johnson, Wayne Hennessey, Christophe Berra, Jamie O'Hara, Karl Henry, Kevin Doyle, and Steven Ward playing in all five matches, and Fletcher, Matthew Jarvis, and Stephen Hunt featuring in four.

For Liverpool:

Who starts for Liverpool?

Kelly Carragher Skrtel Enrique
Gerrard Spearing
Maxi Bellamy Downing

---As noted earlier on in the day, Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio are back in training but not likely to make the squad, and Daniel Agger will be out for a month with a rib fracture. Not formal fitness concerns for anyone else, but you have to wonder about the three faces that featured Sunday and Wednesday---Luis Suarez, Jamie Carragher, and Lucas.

---It might a tall order for Martin Kelly to come back three days later, but Jon Flanagan looks unlikely to feature and, while Wolves don't quite have the pace on the left that Spurs did, I doubt we'll see Martin Skrtel there again. Part of that is also the fact that Skrtel will be needed centrally to partner with Jamie Carragher ---I know it would make sense for Carragher to rest, and I'd much prefer that he did, but I still don't see it happening. Jose Enrique will come back in at left-back after Jack Robinson got the start at Brighton midweek.

---With Gerrard coming back and Lucas logging over 180 minutes already this week, I'm hopeful that Liverpool can afford to give the Brazilian a rest. Gerrard won't serve the same function, and there might be some bumps along the way if he and Spearing to partner, but I'd prefer it to Charlie Adam. And there's always the possibility that Lucas will be ready to go, in which case there's even more questions about where the pieces fit.

---It'd be similarly encouraging if we got three of the front four from Wednesday in some sort of combination, with Stewart Downing added to the mix and Luis Suarez rested for a spell. I think Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt are more than fit enough to feature, and Maxi should be available as well. Leaving out Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson will only make the pricetag discussion louder, but at this point anybody still pointing to that isn't worth a shit anyway.

What's the most important factor for the Reds?

The stagnancy we saw last weekend can't continue, and there were signs midweek that Liverpool are more than capable of playing a more fluid, confident brand of football (even if it was only Brighton). The challenge for Dalglish will be to find a way to alter the personnel in order to give Liverpool the best chance to get the result, and right now it doesn't look like that involves the players he's shown an affinity for selecting. As is typically the case at Anfield, though, Liverpool have a chance to get the result regardless of who's on the team sheet, and will hopefully erase any lingering pain from this fixture last year.

We're up against it for the first time this season, as there's no listing for British viewers and the only channel carrying it stateside is Fox Deportes. That could make life difficult for everyone, with streams hopefully coming from viewers in countries where there's actual coverage. We'll run the links to the normal streaming sites in the matchday thread in hopes that something pops up at some point. Team sheets will be posted around an hour before kickoff, while most of you simultaneously try to show me up by doing the same.

Have a nice end to week, and we'll see you back here tomorrow.

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