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FULHAM FILIBUSTER: Cottagers Confidential
Maybe it's being a bit epic to state it, but the post-Lucas era begins today. We still have no answers as to how Kenny will make up for the canyonesque hold in midfield that now exists. I think most fans would opt for the two to replace one method, going with a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and having some combination of Spearing, Adam, Henderson try and cover Lucas's ground. But Kenny seems like the type who believes his players should be able to step into his system that he deploys, which would see a sticking to the 4-2-2-2 that's been the order for most of the season. I really haven't got a clue.
As for the rest of the lineup, with his talking up of Maxi in the press and his recent performances (I can't believe I'm writing this almost as much as I'm bemoaning the loss of Lucas from where i was on both of them just two years ago. I would have called the cops had you told me this would be the case then) one has to believe he'll start again today. That leaves a couple decisions depending on the formation. If it's the three in central midfield, then Maxi-Suarez-Downing is probably what we'll see, or Maxi-Suarez-Bellamy. If it's the preferred 4-2-2-2, then it could be Maxi with Henderson or Downing behind Carroll and Suarez. Or possibly behind Bellamy and Suarez, but I doubt Dalglish will start all of Carroll, Suarez, and Bellamy. The hulking pairing of Haangeland and Hughes would seem to negate the powers of Carroll, but stranger things have happened. At the back, I fully expect Liverpool to go back to the Johnson-Agger-Skrtel-Enrique foursome that we all think is the best one they have.
As for Fulham, they're coming in off the back of a Europa League loss, but still look odds-on to go through to the knockout stages in that competition (if they haven't revamped the format for it by the time I finish writing this). However, they went without a win in the league for all of November, and currently sit firmly entrenched in the bottom half of the table. But this is still the only other side to get points off of Man City, so sneeze at them at your own peril.
Bobby Zamora is a particular rash on our ass, which was true when he was a Hammer. His bullying ways could give Skrtel pause, or less likely Agger. But with those two in such form, I tend to doubt it. Former Toffee and general irritant Andrew Johnson used to score annoying goals against Liverpool, but those days may be over. Obviously, Yank hero Clint Dempsey is a tricky attacking player who can come from anywhere, and whoever is playing in the defensive midfield role will have to watch whatever wing Deuce is arriving late from.
With that aforementioned central defense, and Chris Baird and old friend John Arne Riise (did you really have to head that ball two feet off the ground in 2008 John? Really), Fulham can be pretty stingy, conceding only 16 in 13 league games. And games at the Cottage make me itchy. Before last season's demolition, it always seemed like a ground where Liverpool never played well. There was that 3-0 disaster the year before where Pool had two players sent off and Dirk Kuyt gave away a goal by scrambling to save a throw in at midfield with absolutely no one around (the perfect example of Kuyt's benefits and drawbacks). But if Liverpool are going to go where they need to this season, this is the exact type of match they have to win. No excuses.
Have at it.