There's a break in sight, but the brutal holiday slate slogs on, with two more matches in the next five days before there's more than a few days off at a time. It seems like the run-in to the Manchester City match saw Liverpool set themselves up nicely, but two losses in four days and a litany of injuries in an already depleted squad left us feeling decidedly less optimistic.
It's not necessarily going to get worse before it gets better, though it certainly could, and I firmly believe there's plenty of reasons to feeling continued hope about where Liverpool's headed. Between the fixture list and the potential for squad improvements both in the transfer market and in terms of health, the club could be set up very nicely for a push at finishing in or very closely around the top four. Or it could see them fail to recover from their recent struggles and find themselves in a relegation battle. That would still be exciting, I suppose.
Tomorrow's match against Hull has taken on renewed importance for Brendan Rodgers' side after two consecutive 2-1 defeats away to City and Chelsea, and for Steve Bruce's squad it provides a chance to do the double over Liverpool for the first time in their history. They ran out deserved winners at the KC Stadium in early December but have won just once since then; they battered Fulham 6-0 last time out, with three straight draws against Swansea, Stoke and West Brom sandwiched by defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United.
Bruce has his side situated tenth in the table, and tomorrow he should have a nearly full-strength squad to choose from. Robert Koren and Tom Huddlestone led the way against Fulham from the midfield, with the former notching a brace and the latter turning in a comprehensive display while netting one of his own. Allan McGregor started in goal in the 6-0 win, with Liam Rosenior, Maynor Figueroa, James Chester, and Curtis Davies in defense, Huddlestone, Koren, Jake Livermore, George Boyd, and Ahmed Elmohamady in a packed midfield, and Yannick Sagbo up top.
Toure Skrtel Agger Cissokho
Alberto Lucas Henderson
Sterling Suarez Coutinho
This was not a good few days for Liverpool on the injury front, as they saw Joe Allen and Mamadou Sakho come off against Chelsea. Allen had received an injection prior to the match and will subsequently miss a few weeks, while Sakho could be out for a much longer period after suffering a hamstring injury. Jordan Henderson had a damaged knee suffered from Samuel Eto'o's high boot early in the match, while a number of others looked as they though they were desperately in need of a rest that won't be coming. Daniel Sturridge, Jose Enrique, Jon Flanagan, and Sebastian Coates will miss out for sure, while Steven Gerrard will be a late decision.
There need to be some significant changes made, and the ones suggested above likely have little chance of happening. But whatever, there's been a lot of previews to write in December and I'm done with this YOU HEAR ME.
Right, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a nearly all-new back four despite the fact that options are limited; Glen Johnson might have been a tactical substitution late on Sunday, insofar as tactical means he's been horrible, but Kolo Toure could come in on the right even if he hasn't excelled when featuring as a fullback, while I'd expect that Daniel Agger comes straight in to partner Martin Skrtel. Aly Cissokho should get the start on the left, then, with few others apparently available barring any major surprises (e.g., Tiago Ilori, Ryan McLaughlin, etc.).
Fitness woes hurt most in the midfield, and it looks as though it'll be Lucas and Jordan Henderson as the only holdovers. It seems too soon for Gerrard at this point in his career, and I think it's about time that Brendan Rodgers gave Luis Alberto a chance. Maybe he features as one of the more advanced in a midfield three, or maybe he starts from the wide areas, but whatever it is, he needs the time and deserves as much based on the few appearances we've seen.
Luis Suarez will start because Luis Suarez always starts, and he'll hopefully get back to goalscoring ways after getting shut out in each of the last two. I'd love to see Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho get an hour or so off, even if it probably won't happen until the weekend; there's the risk of having this appear that Liverpool are taking it easy or underestimating Hull, but it also seems a necessary change given that both have showed signs--Coutinho especially--of losing their legs a bit. If they do start on the bench, it would be nice to see what Iago Aspas can offer in support of Suarez, while Victor Moses could get time in his more preferred wide position. But nothing likely changes and tired legs grumble grumble grumble.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST, with NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra carrying coverage in the US. No listings are available for viewers in England. We'll have the overnight open thread up tonight to lead into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have lineups an hour before things get going. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.