Nobody's going to read this because it's not marked TRANSFER NEWS TIME TO PANIC AND SHOUT DOWN SOMEONE IN A POSITION OF POWER AT LIVERPOOL FROM YOUR DESK/COUCH/BED wait get out of bed slacker, so let's just acknowledge that up front. We are in Thunderdome, and everyone's a loser except Ian Ayre, who simply won't be knocked off his motorcycle despite our most valiant efforts.
So a match, then, and one that very few people care about given that the transfer window is underwhelming and the derby sits terrifyingly close on the horizon. That's good news for Bournemouth, who will surely be aware of Liverpool's struggles against opposition from the lower leagues in domestic cup competition and look to pull of the result of the Fourth Round tomorrow at Dean Court.
Eddie Howe's side have had a difficult Championship campaign to this point despite their FA Cup successes; four league wins since mid-September have left them near the bottom half of the table, and while they're likely safe enough in terms of points--they're seven above Doncaster Rovers, who occupy the third relegation spot--but will hope to finish the second half of the season on better form. League struggles didn't affect their performance in the Third Round, which saw them win 4-1 over League Two side Burton Albion in a match that had been delayed ten days due to inclement weather.
Bret Pitman started and finished the scoring on that day, with captain Tommy Elpick chipping in as well, and Lewis Grabban--who came on for the final seven minutes as Bournemouth scored twice more and just recently signed a contract extension--leads the side with 11 goals in the Championship. Grabban and Pitman should start in attack, while Elphick will anchor the side defensively.
Kelly Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Injuries continue to plague the squad, with Glen Johnson now ruled out indefinitely, Lucas out somewhere between a few weeks and a few weeks, and no concrete news regarding return dates for Jose Enrique, Daniel Agger, and Mamadou Sakho. Jon Flanagan is back in contention after a fairly long layoff, which comes at a good time for Brendan Rodgers and his shrinking squad.
We'll get a couple of changes at the back one way or another, with Rodgers announcing that Brad Jones will spell Simon Mignolet in goal and the likelihood of at least one new face across the back line. It surely comes too soon for Sakho and likely Flanagan as well, so Martin Kelly at right-back is the choice that makes the most sense tomorrow to join an otherwise unchanged unit of Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, and Aly Cissokho barring any late injuries or surprise selections.
In this post-Lucas hellscape known as Liverpool's midfield there's going to be plenty of cringing to go around, but tomorrow might actually offer a glimpse at one of the more functional options. Steven Gerrard's playing in the derby on Tuesday for 90 minutes, no question, so there's little sense in playing him tomorrow, which opens the door for Luis Alberto to get another appearance. It also opens the door for Rodgers to practice little sense and play Gerrard for 90 minutes. WHAT TO DO?!? Play Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen (who may or may not be injured, depending on who you believe) regardless. And then probably do that on Tuesday too.
The layoff post-Villa makes this tricky for selection up front; Luis Suarez is a given, but Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, and Daniel Sturridge are all up in the air. Sterling's played more than enough in recent weeks and should be sharp for the derby regardless, while Sturridge's fitness likely still needs a bit of managing after only making his first start back from injury last weekend. That would leave room for Coutinho and Iago Aspas to join Suarez, with the aforementioned pair on the bench along with Victor Moses.
Kickoff is set for 12:45PM GMT/7:45AM EST, with ITV1 airing the match live in the UK and Fox Sports 1 carrying coverage in the US. Our coverage will start with the overnight open thread tonight and carry into the matchday post early tomorrow, which will have team sheets an hour before kickoff. Hope you'll be around to join us--if you haven't already, sign up for an SBNation profile and stick around.