Liverpool at Reading
5:15pm (12:15pm EST) Saturday, December 8
The Lowdown: After a week which featured silly rumors rubbished and ongoing transfer speculation instead of a mid-week match, the in-form Reds are now poised to return to action, traveling to the Madejski Stadium to take on 13th-placed Reading.
The two clubs have already locked horns once this season in the League Cup, a 4-2 Liverpool victory which Rafa suggests was slightly flattering:
We have experience against Reading. I remember when we won 4-2 at Reading in the Carling Cup this season and people said it was an easy game. It wasn’t. I remember watching the video of the game after the game and they gave us some problems, and it won’t be easy. It will be a tough game against a side with a very good team spirit.
The Royals stumble into this match after a recent display of rather unimpressive form, not having recorded a league win since October. In fact, they suffered three straight losses (Fulham, Arsenal, Man City) until last week’s draw with Middlesbrough. In fact, that lone win (against mighty Newcastle) is their only since Liverpool dispatched them in the Mickey Mouse Cup. Not suprisingly, there are now rumors that manager Steve Coppell wants out, which he denies (I think we all can appreciate the frustration of managerial rumors).
One would assume that whomever Liverpool puts up top for this game, they’ll likely be met with the same level of scrutiny/brute force that defenders Bikey and Duberry afforded El Nino back in October. (edit: Duberry is set to miss the match with a rib injury) Not that such an approach has been all that wonderfully effective in protecting the Reading goal. With a goal difference of -14 (18 versus 32), at least the Royals can take solace in the fact that their league GD is only negative two when playing in the friendly confines of the Madejski. Leading the attack for Coppell & Co. are Dave Kitson (with five league goals) and Kevin Doyle (four league goals). It should be noted that Reading haven’t failed to find the net (in every game, in all competitions) since the first of September.
But, what doesn’t bodes well for Reading is that they’ve actually never beaten Liverpool. Although the sides have only met four times (with all those games having come in just over the last year), they’ve all ended with the same conclusion — Liverpool walking away the victors.
For LFC, the good news is that Rafa has declared Jamie Carragher fit and ready to take part in the weekend’s action, as well as adding some promising news about some of the other walking wounded:
Carra is okay and he can play at the weekend. Alonso trained today and is very close to a return. Agger is closer as well and Fabio could be back.
While none of us should expect to see Agger or Alonso this weekend, I’d put good money on everybody (sans Pennant) being ready to battle come December 16th (although, maybe we could see somebody on the bench for Marseille). As for the players who will make it onto the field, I’d venture a guess that the force of nature that is El Nino (and I’m not the only on his tip lately) would start alongside Kuyt, who has three goals (in the league) against Reading.
It would be easy to look at the recent glut of Liverpool goals, a defense that has cut out many of the silly mistakes that had plagued them (and is now lucky to escape being punished for their remaining miscues), the form of Reading and write this off as an easy win.
But, Reading are no doubt feeling the heat heading into the Holiday Season and should put up a passionate fight at home. And by fight, I literally mean it’ll be tooth and nail. While I have supreme confidence in Liverpool’s ability to get the correct result, I doubt it will be smooth sailing. Three points and no injuries is the best case scenario.
Five Questions TBA:
- Can Kuyt continue his scoring ways against the Royals?
- Or will Torres (Hat-trick Hero last time around) pick-up where he left off?
- Will Liverpool’s play be disrupted by the likely physical approach of Reading?
- Might we get a surprise (albeit unlikely) bench cameo by either Alonso or Agger?
- Don’t the noon kick-offs beat the hell out of the 7:45am ones?