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Guess Who's Back?: AA's QPR Preview

Liverpool return from i nternationals looking at least slightly better than they did last time, with a game that will have become more and more crucial as the season has played out, away to QPR

Clive Brunskill

US: 8:30 AM-NBC Sports

UK: 1:30 PM-Sky Sports 1

Assistant Manager Colin Pascoe has said the objective is to start akin to last season, fast, with crisp passing. Mario Balotelli is still on the hunt for his first Premier League goal for Liverpool, and Brendan Rodgers has said he's used the two weeks in between games during the international break to put his head down and work hard to make it happen.

As said, Liverpool haven't been as hard on injuries in this break as the last, with Emre Can and Joe Allen back in training after time out, while Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic both surviving injury scares and expected to be in the squad. Daniel Sturridge was also set for a return, but injured his calf in training and is set to miss another month.

The 4-2-3-1 formation was working against WBA two weeks ago, but Balotelli says that he's more effective with two strikers in the system. If that's the case, Fabio Borini may start in attack with Balo, but he'll have to make sure that he can make the runs and work hard, as from the outside he's looked rather lazy in the other appearances he's made, a mere shadow of the good form which had all the Kopites wanting his return at Sunderland last year.

There's questions in defense as well, as Glen Johnson returned from injury before the break. Will he replace Alberto Moreno, or be forced to work for his spot back? But having said that, he can play on either flank, so he could also replace Javier Manquillo.

However, before his absence, GlenJo was in awful form, which prompted the acquisition of the two new full backs who have played well thus far.

QPR have a whole host of injuries in midfield, with Alejandro Faurlin, and Jordan Mutch both out long term, and Joey Barton out for another week with a hamstring problem. Niko Kranjcar is also doubtful with a toe injury, but is expected to play.

Some would say that QPR may need to score more goals, however, they have a proven goalscorer in Charlie Austin, and our defense needs to be on high alert. It took him awhile to break his duck this season, but he's always alive in the box, and if not he's not scoring then he's at least involved in good play.

It'll be interesting to see how we line up, there are some fans believing we should go back to the 3-5-2 formation we used when we had so many injuries last year, but that would involve drafting Kolo Toure in as a 3rd center back, which fans see as disastrous these days.

What else will be interesting is the midfield battle. QPR brought in Sandro to help in the center of midfield and run his tail off, so Liverpool must wear him down with quick passing and pressing.

Other thoughts:

-Thank god Lovren isn't hurt. That would leave us with just two central defenders in Skrtel and Toure, and it would be a total ruckus from fans if Kolo had to start. (JAceKopite16)

-With the way that Sandro's a huffer and puffer in the center of the park, I'd like to see players with pace on the ball in midfield to wear him down. I would be surprised if the likes of Markovic, Sterling and Lallana all started. (JAceKopite16)

-Now, where to put Stevie? Some say that he's better up closer to Balo as they seemed to have formed, at least, a general understanding with each other.  So I say, give him a game up closer to the striker, have Sterling on the wing, Lallana and Hendo in midfield and Markovic on the opposite wing, with Stevie and Balo playing off each other in a 4-4-1-1. (JAceKopite16)

-I really hate international breaks. (Will)

-I can't even express how happy I am Lovren is ok. I really didn't want to have to watch Toure. (Will)

-If Glen effing Johnson starts in place of Manquillo or Moreno, I'll throw an absolute fit, and things in my basement will be definitely be broken. Johnson was extremely poor before he got hurt, and our Spanish fullbacks have been arguably our best and most consistent players. (Will)

-I'd like to see two strikers start, and to be honest, I wouldn't mind Balotelli being the odd man out. Put Lambert and Borini out there and see what happens. We haven't gotten much production out of our strikers anyway, so why the hell not try it? (Will)