Well, what's left of our thin squad heads to northern Portugal today to play in one of the neater stadiums in Europe, Estadio Axa, or as it's known to the locals "The Quarry". This will be pretty obvious when you see it if you haven't, as it's built in a quarry and one of the ends butts up against a giant rock. It's pretty ridiculously awesome.
We know Steven Gerrard didn't travel, and now may need surgery which doesn't help anyone involved. The other question about our lineup is whether Andy Carroll goes from the start or off the bench. I can't see how he's able to give you an hour quite yet, so I'm guessing comes on with an hour gone and probably starts the return leg next week. That would leave a front line of Kuyt-Ngog-Cole/utter waste of time Maxi. Kenny may opt again for a 4-4-2 with only Ngog and Kuyt. It's about time for that one game from Ngog where he looks quite useful and makes us all believe again, only to return to the wilderness of suckitude for a month that's usually his forte. It would be welcome.
In midfield, with no Gerrard it's pretty easy to see a troika of Meireles-Lucas-Poulsen. Poulsen hasn't been the broken train crossing since Dalglish took over, but that doesn't mean he's been a stud either. But the only other option would seem to be Jay Spearing and he's never impressed when given a chance, and if he were to get one you'd have to imagine it would be more likely at home. I'd still like to get Dani Pacheco a run out, but with Kenny eager to give youth a chance and still not giving the Spaniard a look, that probably tells us a lot.
I can't see how the Pool opt for three at the back with no other available wing back than Johnson. Jamie Carragher simply isn't cut out to provide width from that position, and having him isolated out wide between the midfield and defense is recipe to cue the Benny Hill music. The guess is a back four of Carra-Menelaus-Skittles-Johnson. With no game at the weekend there really isn't a reason to not send out the full strength squad. Perhaps Danny Wilson gets another look at left back, but that hasn't really worked in the past. Again, perhaps something else to try at home, but not here.
I won't say I know all that much about Braga, but if you want everything you need to know check out RAWK's Spyin' Kop, and that'll tell you everything. What I do know is that this was a Champions League club that got one over Arsenal at home (though Arsenal had a red card in that game, seemingly a habit of theirs when traveling on the Iberian peninsula), and garnered nine points that sadly wasn't enough to go through. So they're not a pushover. But they are struggling in the Portugese league, where Porto are Icky-shuffling their way to the top. They also sold their leading scorer, Matteus, during the window so they probably don't carry as much threat as they used to. From that article is states they've been a bit ropey at the back at times. But with most of our attacking flair either ineligible (Suarez) crocked (Gerrard) or not ready for prime time yet (Carroll) who knows if we can make that count?
Still, it's a team that is only just getting a taste of European football, and the name Liverpool coming to you for the first time is probably still on occasion to be marked by the home fans. They'll be up for this, and hopefully the Reds will be too. While I'd love an easy 2-0 or 3-1 that makes the second leg a formality, that's not what Is see coming at all.