Finally back in action after another lengthy international break, and some very enticing encounters coming up. Optimism and hope has reigned supreme, with a number of key players making their returns to action after lengthy layoffs from injury. Most exciting was the fitness of Daniel Sturridge, who carried with him hopes of an attacking unit that would finally click once their focal point was back in place.
And then not so much. There's still plenty of optimism to be had about the squad, especially with Emre Can and Joe Allen back, but having Sturridge ruled out a further two to four weeks was enough to suck the air right out of the joint. Tomorrow was supposed to be cause for celebration, and while it may still be, there's far more nervousness and anxiety with the news that Sturridge is out.
Harry Redknapp's season back in the top flight with QPR has gone about as poorly as possible, with just four points from their first seven matches. A draw at home to Stoke City in September and a win over Sunderland in August are all they have to show for the campaign to this point. They've been marginally better at home than away, where they've lost all four matches, but they'll need to start to make significant improvements if they (and Redknapp) are going to stick around.
Tomorrow they'll be without Joey Barton and Jordan Mutch, both of whom have hamstring injuries, and they could be missing Niko Kranjcar as well after the midfielder suffered a broken toe in training. At West Ham before the international break, Redknapp went with Robert Green in goal, Nedum Onuoha, Rio Ferdinand, Steven Caulker, and Armand Traore across the back, a packed midfield of Sandro, Karl Henry, Leroy Fer, and Kranjcar, with Junior Hoilett advanced in support of Charlie Austin as the lone striker. Adel Taarabt featured off the bench along with Mutch and Bobby Zamora.
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Gerrard Allen
Sterling Balotelli Lallana
The news that Daniel Sturridge is again injured comes as a major blow Brendan Rodgers' squad, who had already spent the last six weeks without the striker due to a groin injury. He'll be ruled out along with Jon Flanagan, Suso, and Mamadou Sakho, with Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen, and Emre Can expected to be in the squad.
Sturridge's absence forces Rodgers to make a decision about an offense that stuttered without the England striker's presence; options are mostly the same as they were before despite the number of names returning, and the starting eleven shouldn't look drastically different than it did before the international break.
There's little depth available in central defense, where Lovren's return and Sakho's lingering injury combine to likely leave us with Martin Skrtel alongside the Croatian, whose injury wasn't as serious as originally feared. Kolo Toure could start, but if Lovren's close to fit he'll get the nod. Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno haven't done anything to justify getting dropped, but both now find themselves with fit backups in Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique.
Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard will again start in the midfield, and hopefully they'll be joined by Allen straightaway. Liverpool were arguably most effective earlier in the season with that setup, and the Welshman's pressing and energy has been sorely missed.
One of Rickie Lambert or Fabio Borini could partner Balotelli, especially in the wake of the striker's comments that he prefers a two-striker setup that would allow him to drift. Rodgers has been hesitant to use Lambert with Balotelli, though, and after his start at Aston Villa, Borini has gone missing. A rest for Raheem Sterling might have been in the works before Sturridge was ruled out, but unless Rodgers goes with Lazar Markovic or Philippe Coutinho, it's back into the action for the 19-year-old.
Kickoff is set for 1:30PM BST/8:30AM EST, with Sky Sports 1 carrying coverage in the UK and NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match 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.