In-form Liverpool travel to Craven Cottage on Monday night with memories of the terrific 5-2 victory over Fulham last season still fresh in the minds of many Reds’ fans. Argentine winger Maxi Rodriguez scored a superb hat-trick – his second in just three games – while Dirk Kuyt and the sensational Luis Suarez also found the net to hand Liverpool a comfortable victory. Manager Kenny Dalglish will be hoping for a similar result and performance from his players as the Merseysiders aim to climb above Arsenal back into fifth spot.
But while injuries to the likes of Glen Johnson and Jamie Carragher do not appear to have had any major negative impact, Dalglish will be far more concerned about the season-ending injury sustained by Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva last week. Lucas has been excellent for the Reds over the last couple of years and his presence protecting the back four will be sorely missed. Tough-tackling local boy Jay Spearing could deputise for the former Gremio star, though costly summer signing Jordan Henderson may also be considered as an option.
Dalglish will also have a selection dilemma when he comes to picking his wingers and forwards. Maxi scored in his only league start of the campaign at Stamford Bridge a couple of weeks ago, yet he was dropped in favour of Stewart Downing against Manchester City in Liverpool’s previous top-flight fixture. Given that Maxi always seems to perform well in the capital, could he start ahead of Downing at Craven Cottage?
And while star striker Suarez is expected to start, will it be fiery Welshman Craig Bellamy who partners him or the £35m target-man Andy Carroll? Bellamy has impressed whenever he has played in a Reds shirt this term, while the partnership between Suarez and Carroll seemed to be blossoming when they played together a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see who the manager picks to play against Fulham.
Speaking about the selection dilemma, Dalglish said: “The strength of your squad is the ability of the ones who don’t play as often as the others. There are some of the lads who started the other night who would like to have played more often than they have done, but there is strong opposition here for places.” He added: “It does make it more difficult (to select a team), but it makes it more pleasant as well when you watch them play.”
Meanwhile, the Carling Cup semi-finalists will face Southend or Oldham in the FA Cup Third Round. The game will take place at Anfield next month and fans will be happy to have avoided the big guns at such an early stage in the competition.
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