Liverpool vs. Bolton
3pm (10am EST) Sunday, December 2
The Lowdown: It would be fair to say it’s been a (predictably) disappointing season for Bolton. After the departure of the (then) over-achieving manager Sam Allardyce, the writing was on wall (although it was probably more like graffiti on a bathroom stall… “For a Good Time, Call Big Sam) — Bolton’s days of wringing productivity out of bargain-basement players for a top half finish in the table most likely walked out the door with their recently departed boss. They started the season collecting a whopping three points from their first six matches, putting immediate pressure on Sammy Lee — my preseason pick for first manager sacked. But, Bolton couldn’t even get that right as Mourinho’s departure made Sammy only the second casualty come mid-October.
Since then, Bolton have become something of draw specialists. Well, ‘specialists’ may be too generous, as I’m not sure they really do anything all that well. After 14 matches, the Wanderers are sitting a point above the relegation zone with 11 points. Gary Megson is the new man in charge after leaving his post as Leicester’s manager (after a whole six weeks at the helm) and has overseen the club’s continued mediocracy. At least until last week, when Bolton claimed Man United’s scalp at the Bolton Stadium.
It should be pointed out that Bolton are undefeated since their ginger manager took over. But, this match is at Anfield and Bolton have yet to win away from home in the league, notching two draws (West Ham and Derby) and four losses in their travels. Yet, with Liverpool’s sometimes unconvincing home performances in the league this season, former Reds like El-Hadji Diouf & Nic Anelka may find some hope.
Let’s hope that hope drowns in the River Mersey.
Bolton will be missing defender Nicky Hunt and Scouse-bred midfielder Kevin Nolan. Also, all-action loanee Danny Guthrie isn’t allowed to play against us. And it’s obviously more than possible that somebody else might pull up lame after their UEFA Cup clash.
On the other side, the Reds have won four on the bounce (two PL, two CL), having scored 17 goals and allowing only one in those matches (that means perfect in all November matches, including the Blackburn draw). While not all those performances were tour-de-forces for 90 minutes, I can’t help but be buoyed by a team who continues to win despite injuries and in-fighting.
Xabi Alonso should still be a few matches away so he shouldn’t feature. But, his brother Mikel should be available (for Bolton, that is) so the clan may be properly represented. There are still a couple days until the match, so maybe the DAgger will find himself a place on the bench. Pennant is certainly out and will continue to be so until after the New Year. I’ve not heard of any fresh injuries stemming from the Porto game, but as I just said, there’s still a couple days…
What will likely affect the starting line-up, per usual, is not so much injury as it is Rafa. To what degree the team gets rotated is anybody’s guess, but with no midweek game after Bolton (next match being on Saturday the 8th @ Reading), it’s possible somebody who might usually get chopped/rested could be included.
(Then again, after next weekend, we’ve got Marseille, United then Chelsea — albeit, in the League Cup. Take that for what it’s worth…)
We’ll see. I’d also think that Crouch almost has to be thrown a bone in the form of a starting spot.
Popular opinion would have Liverpool winning this one comfortably. I think Bolton’s days of frustrating form against Liverpool likely went the way of the Dodo with the departure of their dum-dum manager. I would keep an eye on Anelka popping off against his former team, but honestly there should be no reason the Reds can’t keep a cleansheet and put down a few goals for good measure.
Five Questions TBA:
Will Harry Kewell’s reintroduction to the wild continue with a starting spot?
Will Nicolas Anelka use another match versus a Big Four opponent to audition for a January transfer?
Does Lucas continue to find himself included in the matchday squad?
Will Diouf spit on anybody?
Will the weekend end with the Reds back in Top 4?