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Wanderer Bullhorn: Lion of Vienna Suite
Not a bad time to be a Red these days. Sure, no performance has exactly started firecrackers going off or left you dreaming at night, but they've gotten slowly better as things start to tighten and fit together. Tomorrow should see that continue, and let's hope the rate sharpens up a bit with an International break coming up that you'd want to carry momentum through.
This time, I think I have a pretty good hold on what the lineup will be. Meireles will certainly be out, no matter how much string-cheese his shoulder is or isn't. Suarez, Adam, and Carroll (who didn't start but replaced Meireles) will hold over from the win at Exeter. Lucas will replace Spearing, with a backline of Kelly-Carragher-Agger-Enrique replacing that of Flanagan-Skrtel-Wilson-Robinson. Stewart Downing will replace Maxi. The only debate is if Dirk Kuyt comes in for Henderson. This is a toss up, and will depend on what formation Kenny Dalglish wants to go with. If it's a 4-2-2-2 with Carroll and Suarez up top, it's more likely that Henderson will pair up with Downing in that second two, as they both can float inside. If it's a 4-2-3-1 with Suarez behind Carroll, it is more likely Kuyt will come in as he's a little more trustworthy wide right. Also playing into it is having to combat the spiky Martin Petrov, who if in the mood can be a real threat from the Bolton left. But the again he's just as likely to look as if he has to take a really big dump all game and whinge about it for the entire 90. Could go either way.
Bolton have their own issues to deal with. Today, they turned down a bid from Arsenal for Gary Cahill, believed to be around 6 million pounds. Or you could call it an extension of the honored privilege to come play for Arsenal, which is clearly what Arsene Wenger thought it was as that's hardly enough for Cahill. While I'd like to think that could unsettle Cahill and keep him out of the lineup, it's unlikely to do so. He'll resume his partnership with Zat Knight at the heart of defense, and Knight is no longer the bar bathroom joke he used to be. Where Bolton have real problems is right back, with both Steinsson and Alonso on the shelf, meaning David Wheater will get the call most likely. This should leave Stewart Downing frothing at the mouth and giggling.
Moving to midfield, the engine room is manned by the imposing Fabrice Muamba and the elderly and pretty much useless Nigel Reo-Coker. While their long on graft, there ain't much craft here. They'll look to shut down (i.e. kick) Lucas and Adam into submission, and especially away from home they'll be more concerned with just sticking to them. Bolton's creativity comes from the wide areas, with aforementioned mystery that is Petrov and United castoff Chris Eagles.Still, after pimp-slapping Theo Walcott -- who admittedly doesn't come with a brain -- I fully expect Jose Enrique to have little struggle with Eagles, while Kuyt can help out Kelly on the other flank.
Kevin Davies is annoying, because he looks like a guy you were talking to at the bar last night, and he seems to always score goals from about three feet out. Still a battering ram, he'll get a couple calls and set up a couple freekicks you won't believe, and remains a threat. It sounds silly to say because he always seems to score against us, but I'm more comfortable with Liverpool dealing with a monolith of a striker than a quick, nippy one. Sadly, Ivan Klasnic is nippy enough to be considered tricky.
With that strikeforce, and if Petrov is in the mood, and the fact that manager Owen Coyle likes to play the sport instead of set it back a couple decades and then suck himself in the postgame like Sam Allardyce or Gary Megson did, Bolton can be a tricky opposition. But this is at home, Liverpool have won nine of the last 10 against Wanderers, and everything is slowly clicking into gear. I expect the Pool to continue that, come out with the bit between their teeth just as they did against Sunderland, but this time make it count. Should they, the two week break between matches will be easier to deal with.