Unless it's the last one of the season there's always another match to follow, and after the opening twenty minutes at Anfield on Saturday, I think this is a terrible idea. Rightly praised as one of the most impressive starts to a match in Premier League history, it was a spell I watched at least three or four times over the rest of the weekend just to see if I would ever stop gasping and chuckling and feeling my jaw drop involuntarily. I didn't.
But move on we must, to the type of match that produces a different type of nerves than Arsenal's visit to Merseyside. This is the quintissential don't f**k this thing up okay match, which will more or less follow every "big" match until season's end. The win this weekend was magical, but its meaning would lose a hell of a lot of significance if there's any points dropped tomorrow.
Assuming tomorrow actually happens, as there's some doubt about whether or not the match will take place. Fulham have concerns that the London Underground strike will have an impact on the ability of their grounds staff to actually get to Craven Cottage, which would then compromise their compliance with health and safety regulations. Understandable if this was a last-minute thing, or if other clubs were having similar worries, but neither of those points is true--the strike has been in the works since January 10th, and no other matches in the top flight have been postponed. In the linked release above, Fulham confirm that they will make a decision one way or the other by 3:00pm GMT/10:00am EST today.
Arsenal, West Ham and Leyton Orient all ready for the strike but not Fulham?
— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) February 11, 2014
As far as the actual football goes, Fulham have proven that they can put up enough fight to make the aforementioned nerves justified; aside from Liverpool's, theirs was the result of the weekend in the Premier League, earning a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford with an equalizer in the 93rd minute on a Darren Bent header. It's been a tumultuous season to this point, resulting in the dismissal of Martin Jol and rumors that his successor, René Meulensteen, might be out the door shortly as well. They've shipped the most goals in the top flight this season and sit four points from safety on the bottom of the table, with only one league win since the start of the new year.
Meulensteen picked a strange squad on Sunday, leaving a handful of regulars either out of the squad or on the bench. Bent (not exactly a regular), Brede Hangeland, Scott Parker, and Damien Duff were in eighteen, with Muamer Tankovic making his debut up front, Johnny Heitinga and Dan Burn starting in central defense, and William Kvist coming into the midfield alongside Steve Sidwell. Ryan Tunnicliffe and John Arne Riise started as fullbacks with Maarten Stekelenburg in goal, and Kieran Richardson and Lewis Holtby providing support going forward--which didn't really happen after they took the lead in the first half--for Tankovic.
Flanagan Skrtel Toure Cissokho
Sterling Suarez Sturridge
There weren't any updates in Brendan Rodgers' press conference yesterday, leaving us to assume that the same update from the weekend applies despite Jordan Henderson suffering a fractured wrist against Arsenal. Mamadou Sakho, Glen Johnson, and Daniel Agger could be making returns shortly, while the timeline is indefinite for Jose Enrique and Lucas.
And depending on a surprise return for one of the defensive trio mentioned above, I'd guess the same lineup from the weekend applies as well. The fullback pairing of Jon Flanagan and Aly Cissokho were very good, with the latter putting together his best performance in a Liverpool shirt, and Martin Skrtel continued his fine form and Kolo Toure stabilized after a shaky display at the Hawthorns.
How the midfield and front three line up might change slightly; Joe Allen could be used in place of Philippe Coutinho or Henderson, especially if the latter's broken wrist is enough to keep him out, but I think Rodgers opts to use the Brazilian as the most advanced in a midfield three of Steven Gerrard--once again playing deepest--and Henderson, who should be fine with a cast. Allen's had little influence in his substitute appearances in the last two, and I think a start in the FA Cup tie at Arsenal this weekend is far more likely than displacing Coutinho or Henderson after Saturday's performance.
Differences will probably be seen across the front, with a number of combinations between Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, and Daniel Sturridge possible. Sterling won't line up centrally, but Sturridge and Suarez have both spent time wide--against Everton we saw Sturridge on Liverpool's left with the Uruguayan central, and in the win over Arsenal it was Suarez on the right with Sturridge central and Sterling left. Whatever it is, let's hope they combine to similar effect as those displays rather than the relatively flat output at West Brom.
Kickoff is set for 8:00PM GMT/3:00PM EST, with Premier League Extra Time/NBC Sports Live Extra airing the match live 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.