Going to have to be a lot better than last out, lads.
I hate not having an away goal in the bag, even more so when you didn't even really come close to having one. Now you're a dodgy penalty decision or a missed offside or a red card away from needing three goals. And then you're chasing those three goals and you're so open to having a second that would end things a threat at every give away of possession. It makes for a long afternoon.
What everyone wants to know is whether Andy Carroll makes his first start today, and I don't see anyway he doesn't, even if he can only give you an hour. The Braga defense clearly was terrified of him, and that's with him 40 yards from goal. If we can get him into the box with crosses from out wide being fired in, well, I will look forward to that like a cat looking forward to....I don't know what cats look forward to. Sleeping? Being a pain in the ass? I hate cats.
On the flip side, this will be Carroll's first start in Europe, and refs from the continent have a different view of a battering ram of a center forward. It took Peter Crouch like three years to figure this out. I could see a rash of fouls called on our #9 as his physicality and Braga defenders playing for it pile them up. A booking is probably coming too. Hopefully, this doesn't take too much of his aggressiveness out of the game. But he'll learn a lot.
The rest of the lineup? Who knows? Agger won't be ready in time, but with the passing and movement that Braga displayed last time one would think you can't have Carragher and Menelaus in the same backline again, unless it's the three centerbacks being trotted out again. But with no natural left wingback available, that's probably out too. I would guess it's Johnson-Carra-Skrtel-Wilson, but we know I never get these right. The midfield is probably a five of Cole-Lucas-Spearing-Meireles-Kuyt, with Cole and Kuyt pushing up to flank Carroll. While Cole has done nothing, at least he's not the drunken hobo wandering of Maxi. As Oh You Beauty pointed out, having Spearing at the press conference must mean he's starting.
With Pool having to go for it, the space that's going to be there for Braga's slick passing gives me uncomfortable feelings in uncomfortable places. Lima having space to run into isn't going to help anyone. And with Carroll out there, I fear the ol' hoof and hope will be employed far too much, especially as he can play with his feet. Not letting Carragher have the ball too much would be a start. But without Agger, Lucas comes too deep for the ball, and there's too big of a gap to Meireles. I don't know how we get around this, but maybe Spearing finally does something to justify the muted hype that came after his debut those years ago. Or maybe Kenny has something else up his sleeve. We shall see.