Clean Up Job: Liverpool v. Hearts Preview

Liverbird_right_medium v. 1_61_heart_band1_medium
KICKOFF: 3:05 EST, 8:05 BST
TV: FSC

Coming back from a pretty spotty away performance to protect and build on a 1-0 aggregate lead. Well, at least this drill will be fresh in the minds of everyone.

Usually, we spend a good portion of these posts trying to guess what the lineup will be. This time, it seems folly as it really could be anything. But I don't want to shirk a challenge, so let's take a stab at it, eh?

There are two players I'm fairly certain will not be used. That is Gerrard and Skrtel. Skittles could probably use the mental break, and with Arsenal approaching Gerrard must be preserved. That much I'm willing to bet on.

That probably means the second string back four, with Coates partnering Carragher in the middle. But anybody could be at fullback. Martin Kelly could play his fourth match in 11 days, which seems a bit extreme. Perhaps John Flanagan comes up for air in that case with Johnson rested for Sunday? On the other side, Rodgers was making noise about using Stewart Downing as a left-back. Would that mean the experiment begins tomorrow? If he truly wants to get at Hearts and end this early, maybe. Or Jack Robinson could make a return. I don't have a clue.

In midfield it gets even more muddled. With Gerrard rested, we know Sahin is ineligible and Lucas is injured. That leaves a a mix of Shelvey, Spearing, Henderson, and perhaps Adam, as I think Allen will be spared until Sunday. Especially now that he's even more valuable with Lucas injured. My guess is Spearing-Henderson-Shelvey, with Hendo's dogged running meant to compensate for Spearing's wanderings. But maybe Adam is run out there one more time to get him more attractive in the shop window?

Up front, I would love to say that Andy Carroll will start. But does anyone really believe that? Does anyone really believe that Rodgers is finally going to make him a real part of the team and not try and keep him wrapped up to be sold? I won't until Friday passes without him elsewhere. Suarez is unlikely to go but I won't rule it out. Borini could probably use a rest, but options are running out. Will the 17-year old legs of Sterling be asked to run out four games in 10 days, as you'd have to believe he's a cert to start against the Gunners. Assaidi is also unavailable, which makes you think Downing will be up front on the right instead of at the back. Maybe Adam Morgan in a real match? I find that doubtful. Joe Cole out of the depths? It's anyone's guess right now.

As for Hearts, they drew with Aberdeen in the interim of this tie. While they need to claw the game back, I doubt we'll see them come out guns firing. Play it cool for 20 minutes, keep Liverpool from running away, and slowly try and build into it from there. Those two wingers and Sutton up top could provide problems if Liverpool are asleep.

But this should be child's play. Hearts had every chance to really make this queasy when Liverpool were off the boil, and they couldn't do it. They couldn't even come close. It's hard to see how they get better and the Pool get worse at Anfield. But stranger things have happened.

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