In Saturday’s Melwood Today, we get the thoughts of the new This Is Anfield Preview Panel ahead of Monday night’s Premier League clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage.. This week, Jack Wells and Nikola Mitrovic provide their thoughts on Fulham; their hopes for team selection; player to watch and their result predictions as Liverpool look to extend their 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Fulham v Liverpool
Monday, December 5th, 2011
Jack Wells: “So far this season, Liverpool have been in great form on their travels and will be hoping to extend that run on Monday night. Fulham have lost their last two home games, so in theory, it is a game that Liverpool should win. But we all know that football doesn’t always work like that.
Liverpool line-up: The loss of Lucas, who will be out for the remainder of the campaign, comes as a massive blow for Liverpool. Last season’s ‘fans’ player of the year’ has been in scintillating form, picking up from where he left off last year, and his injury comes at the worst time possible for Liverpool – just when they were finding some consistently good form.
In the absence of Lucas, I think Kenny will have to alter his tactics, in order to get the best out of whoever comes in to replace the young Brazilian. For me, the obvious stand-in has to be Jay Spearing, who faces the daunting task of filling the somewhat large Lucas boots. Spearing probably doesn’t possess the same quality as Lucas, but one thing is for sure, we Liverpool fans won’t be questioning his effort.
For Monday night’s match, I would stick with what has worked so well of late. The back four of Johnson, Skrtel, Agger and Enrique has to be a dead-cert. Without wanting to jinx it, Liverpool have been extremely secure defensively, even against Manchester City – the side who had scored more than two goals in every Premier League game, until Sunday – we held strong.
In midfield, I would opt for the balanced trio of Henderson, Spearing and Adam – in the absence of Steven Gerrard and the aforementioned, Lucas Leiva. With this midfield, you combine Henderson’s work-rate, Spearing’s terrier-like defensive mentality, and Adam’s playmaking ability. Adam and Henderson will have the license to get forward, knowing that they have the protection of Jay Spearing covering them.
Up front, I would go for Maxi, Suarez and Bellamy. The three of them have been superb recently, so why drop them? The pace and technical ability in that forward line should be more than enough to trouble the Fulham defence. I’d then introduce Andy Carroll later on in the game, when Fulham begin to tire.
Opposition Player to Watch: Bryan Ruiz – The Costa Rican attacker has had a slow-ish start to life in the Premier League, only showing glimmers of why Fulham shelled out £10.6m to sign him from FC Twente. His performances in the Dutch league have proven that he has talent in abundance, but as we see so often, it can take time for some players to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. This being said, Ruiz strikes me as a player who can create something from nothing, so Glen Johnson will have to be responsible defensively to keep him quiet.
Key head to head: Suarez v Hangeland – I think if Fulham are to get anything from this match, they will have to subdue Luis Suarez. Subduing El Pistolero, though, is no simple task. Brede Hangeland is without doubt Fulham’s best defender and will surely face that intimidating challenge. Preparing for the unpredictability of the Uruguayan striker is like trying to take the ball off of Barcelona though, as Fulham will already know. The 2-5 mauling Fulham were dealt, at the hands of Liverpool last season, will undoubtedly be fresh in the players’ memories, when they witnessed a stand-out performance from Liverpool’s prized asset.
Prediction: I’m certainly not expecting Fulham to be pushovers, but if Liverpool play like they did against Manchester City and in the two games against Chelsea, there is no reason why they can’t take all three points back to Anfield.
One thing the Reds must avoid is failing to convert the chances they create, like they have done in so many games this season, a la Swansea and Norwich. If Liverpool apply cutting edge to their high pressure, fast and flowing attacks, then I can see the Reds winning. I won’t get carried away, so I’ll go for Fulham 0-2 Liverpool.
Jack Wells started writing for This Is Anfield in 2011 and has his own blog at thisisjackwells.co.uk. He is a die-hard Liverpool fan and a Sports Journalist trying to find his way in the industry with a great informative and entertaining writing style. You can follow him on Twitter @jackwells7.
Nikola Mitrovic: “Liverpool have been rocked hard with Lucas’ unfortunate injury, so it will be interesting to see how Kenny will replace our only specialist defensive midfielder, especially now that he’s started forming an impressive partnership with Charlie Adam. Obvious choice would be recalling Jay Spearing into the side – a lad who always gives his best on the pitch. He’s very different to Lucas but I’m backing him to make the most out of his chances.
Also, Shelvey has been recalled from his loan to further provide cover for Lucas, although I think that he will be providing cover for Gerrard and Henderson since he’s naturally more inclined to attack.
Fulham will probably be unchanged from the side that drew with Arsenal at Emirates. Their defence will be as stubborn as ever and I expect ever-improving Clint Dempsey, Moussa Dembele and Bobby Zamora to keep our defenders on their toes during the course of entire game. It will be nice to see John Arne Riise again, I expect the travelling Kop to remind him that he’s still held in high regard over here. They are playing some very good football this season, especially at home, so it should be a good game.
I expect Kenny to name a side similar to the one that faced Manchester City. Like I said earlier, Spearing is now the obvious choice to replace Lucas, while Bellamy’s display against Chelsea should see him given a starting spot on the left of our attack, in Downing’s place.
Opposition Player to watch: Fulham have quite a few players who are able to cause surprises and pop up with goals and assists – Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora have proved to be just that for Fulham over the course of past three seasons but the one to watch, in my opinion, is Moussa Dembele. He’s very strong, he can hold the ball up well, he can dribble, he can shoot and has very good technique. It’s no surprise that he’s slowly beginning to attract interest from top European clubs.
Key head to head: Zamora v Skrtel could be the key battle in this match – Zamora can be a handful for any opposition defender on his day as he’s a good target man with good feet. I remember Fulham‘s match against QPR when he played an absolute blinder and I hope that he won’t be able to do anything like that against us. That’s where Skrtel comes in – he’s slowly beginning to build his form and will need to be at his very best to deal with Zamora’s strength, aerial prowess and link-up play.
Match Prediction: Fulham has been very tricky for us in recent years bar our last encounter and I expect to see more of the same from them – good passing and movement in attack and stubborn defence – but if our lads continue their fine form, I think we can get a good result there. I predict 1:2 this time.
Guest Contributors – The Melwood Today Preview Panel
1. Phil Montgomery 2. Nikola Mitrovic 3. Brian Irvine 4. Craig Rimmer
5. Michael Sweeting 6. Jack Wells
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Melwood Today – Your quick round up of some of Liverpool’s essential and not-so-essential news every morning on ThisIsAnfield.com …