Liverpool vs. Birmingham
3pm (10am EST) Saturday, September 22
The Lowdown: After two consecutive draws and the unfortunate news of Agger and Alonso’s injuries (yet another reason to hate international friendlies), Liverpool look to get back on track against the lowly Blues at Anfield.
Birmingham currently sit 12th, having most recently edged out bottom-dwelling Bolton 1-0 at home. Luckily for Steve Bruce’s side, the squad aren’t carrying many injuries with the exception of midfielder Damian Johnson (hamstring). Unluckily, one of the more recent meetings between Liverpool and the B’ham was the 7-0 train wreck in the FA Cup. But, those were in the Championships days and Birmingham have now earned the right to sit at the grown-up’s table once again.
While I’m spitting out dates and numbers, I’ll point out that LFC have only lost three of the last 20 league matches between these two clubs, but two of those losses have come in the last four. The last scoreless draw between the Blues and Reds at Anfield came in 1931. And, Rafa has never beaten Birmingham in the Premier League.
Vaguely interesting statistics, indeed, but they what do they tell us? Actually, nothing. Let’s move on.
Liverpool have a few injuries concerns to cope with. Obviously, both Daniel Agger and Xabi Alonso are out (feet). But, Auriello and Riise are both expected to be fit enough for selection. So, Rafa should have Hyypia and Arbeloa to deputize for the DAgger and Momo and Masch to stand in for the Spaniard. Otherwise, the Goateed One has the rest of his squad (except, obviously, Harry Kewell) to select from.
Rafa is ready to see the team get back to its winning ways and tack another three points to the table:
We need to get back to playing good football, passing the ball well, creating chances and scoring goals as we were doing before the international break. You know my ideas as to why it’s difficult for players to keep the same level after the internationals.
I knew this would be a very dangerous time for us. I can talk about this another 400 times, but now we must focus on what we can do for ourselves.
The positive news is we are still unbeaten and our idea is continue the momentum we have created for as long as possible. I know Birmingham will be a strong opponent. They have a lot of experience and their manager knows Liverpool very well.
And Carra, recognizing how the team hasn’t given up a goal in open play, speaks on their new ugly habit of conceding penalties:
It is just one of those strange things that happen sometimes, we seem to be giving penalties away every game. I am sure it will not continue like this.
The disappointing thing is, all the penalties we have given away have not really been goalscoring chances. And we are not giving many chances away in open play and that is something we have got to be proud of. All we need to do is stop giving penalties away.
Five Questions TBA:
- Will Liverpool gift another penalty this week?
- Can the attack get some shots off and refind their scoring touch?
- Who will be the better long-term stand-in — the experienced Hyypia or the more mobile Arbeloa?
- Can either Momo or Masch put themselves ahead of the other in the pecking order in the next month?
- Do Chelsea seriously think Grant can successfully replace Mourinho? (sorry, had to sneak that in)
And in case you were wondering, Rafa has spoken on the Mourinho departure (kind of):
You know my relationship with him, it is better that I do not say anything. At the moment I am more worried about Steve Bruce.
It is not a good idea for a manager to talk about other clubs in this situation. I would prefer not to say anything. What is clear is that Chelsea still have a good team with a lot of very good players.
The best thing for Liverpool is to continue to focus on what we are doing and to continue to improve ourselves and play well. Not to think about what is happening anywhere else. That would be dangerous, I am more interested in Liverpool, not with any problems at other clubs.