TV: ESPN 2
Citizen's Brigade: Bitter And Blue
First off, I have to commend Bromantic's excellent recap of the Suarez findings that he posted. Truly yeoman's work o something unpleasant. That said, I'm sick of all of it. I'd rather not deal with it right now for a while, because I don't know what to make of it and I don't know that anyone is sure either. Either I'm condoning a racist or blaming someone innocent, and none of us who support the club can make the right choice, according to the outside. So let's just have the biggest match of the season distract us no?
Results could have not gone more Liverpool's way this New Year's, and if Fat LamLard hadn't found a winner against Wolves then it would have been perfect. Arsenal biffed at Fulham, and now Liverpool are a win away from being equal on points with Chelski for fourth. You couldn't ask for more.
Sadly, that win would have to come against the league leaders who just lost a heartbreaker at Sunderland, so the chances of their focus not being totally locked in aren't very high. Worse, with this match at home and after the lineup tossed out at the Stadium of Light, Liverpool are going to get the full barrel now. Silva, Aguero, Balotelli, Toure, and Milner did not start last match. You'd have to believe they will now, except for maybe Balotelli who has an ankle concern to go along with the many brain concerns. But really, how hard can it be?
As for Liverpool, he may not be quite ready but you can put the house on Steven Gerrard starting. He may only be good for an hour, but he's going to get the chance to prove otherwise. I'm going to guess it'll be ahead of Charlie Adam, who just hasn't been anything the past couple matches. Combine that with the need to have at least one shielder and only Spearing even be close to that, and the spots run out. One could see Henderson being dropped as well, but if it's based on recent form then he'll stay.
Considering his knees are basically a hypothesis at this point, one would think that Craig Bellamy won't make a second match in four days. But he's become too dangerous, and the idea of putting one over on another second former club (helps when you have about 185 former clubs) will see Bellamy start again. Downing's form has been ok, so I'll call 39-8-19 behind 7. Yes, Suarez will start despite whatever else. How he responds will tell a very interesting story. The defense will remain the same, because why shouldn't it?
Only Napoli and Arsenal have come even close at Eastlands, with the Gunners losing a tough 1-0 and Napoli getting a draw. I don't know what's to be learned from that. What I do know is that City have been held out the past two matches, and you could make an argument it's the mojo running dry for a bit. Or they're going to take it out on the Reds and it'll be a long afternoon. Still, if you can keep Silva from harming you, a lot of City's imagination falls down around them. Milner is merely functional, and Nasri is overrated by a factor of 12. Sergio Aguero is a major problem still, but Liverpool's defense has been solid enough that we can't just simply make it a given they'll be a threat.
A result here and Liverpool will begin 2012 as in the thick of the race for fourth as we would have wanted before the season started. From there it's a sprint with all the tough away fixtures save Old Trafford done. But then again, it isn't the tough away fixtures that have been the problem, have they?