Kickoff: 2:45 EST
This is something I tend to reference on my hockey blog a lot. I have a strange fascination with 80's wrestling. Fits right in with my inability to grow up.
Anyway, legendary announcer Gene Orkerlund loved to refer to "testicular fortitude". And Wednesday's 2nd leg is pretty much all about how much of that Liverpool have.
They've been called out by their manager. They've had two awful performances in the league leading into this. They carry a one-goal lead against what is still the most frightening attacking force in the country. There's a trip to Wembley on the line, salvation for the season, a momentum builder, with another Cup tie against their biggest and most bitter rival waiting on Saturday.
it's all about balls.
I don't know who Dalglish was referring to in his post game interview, but clearly he was ticked with a few players. We may find out tomorrow. For the most practical purposes, if Jay Spearing can walk and take in oxygen, he pretty much has to play. Liverpool just don't tick over without a defensive midfielder, and Spearing is the closest to one they have. He will set the stage for Henderson and Gerrard, who are much better when concentrating about getting forward.
I doubt Andy Carroll is going to get the start tomorrow. It seems he's had his chance, and he's blown it. What that means in the long term is something to be discussed later. Without Suarez, that only leaves Kuty to man this ship up top. Usually, this would send me into a tizzy, and Kuyt's current form doesn't make anyone need to change their shorts. However, Kuyt built his reputation on coming up with something in big games. He just always does. I think Kenny is counting on that, and counting on his always honest effort. As I've said, Spearing-Henderson-Gerrard is the central axis, and Craig Bellamy is almost a cert in one of the wide berths. The other one? Does it matter?
Just as it doesn't matter who City start, because they're all mutants. We know the backline will have to be Richards-Savic-Lescott-Clichy, with injuries, suspensions, and those who had to fuck off to Africa. City have no fixture at the weekend, there's really no reason they can't throw all the big guns at Liverpool. The midfield and attack? Probably Barry and De Jong, maybe Milner in the middle. Balotelli will be suspended, but that still leaves Aguero, Silva, Dzeko to fire. Whoever does, they'll be formidable.
But to me, those details are kind of secondary. Liverpool in recent years have saved their best for one-offs against the top sides, especially at home. They have to do so again, but also build a platform that they can move on from. They have to find confidence and belief when their past performances haven't provided that in the least. They have to forget those matches, not let those past problems creep into this one and effect how they play, which they've done far too often. One missed chance is not a signal they won't score again. One missed cross doesn't mean one will never work. A missed through ball shouldn't mean they'll never get a look at goal.
It's right outside your door...