For Wolves, Liverpool have regularly been a team against which it ‘might have been’. We need more than that now. Sunday’s performance against Wigan was a significant low in a pretty dismal season and morale is scraping along the floor. It’s up to Mick to get the team to pick themselves up and keep fighting. A decent performance will do the same for the fans – until next week at least.
The 2003/4 season saw us achieve against Liverpool a 1-1 draw that could have been 2-1 had Stefan Iversen (remember him? – seriously, we are a better team now) not skyed a shot from six yards out. In the return leg we were seconds from a hard-fought 0-0, when Hyypia bagged a 90th minute winner. Last year saw a creditable 0-0 home draw and an arguably unfortunate 2-0 away defeat after Stephen Ward was harshly sent off – not before the ref had first incorrectly shown the yellow to Berra (remember that? – the refs aren’t any better these days).
Liverpool are delightfully unpredictable as ever – they come into the match on the back of a 3-1 defeat to Newcastle and a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa (surely strong candidates to be dragged into the mire of a relegation fight this season). They are 13th in the table and will be desperate to get some consistent results. They’re likely to have a strong line up with Gerrard and Agger set to return to their team after long lay offs. They don’t have a fantastic recent record against us, but that will mean nothing tomorrow – all that matters is the performance and the result on the day.
Ominously, as if it wasn’t enough concern that we only have one point on the road this season, the injury situation isn’t getting much better either, although it is some comfort that Jarvis should be further on the road to recovery, and possibly able to start. Apparently Fletcher was still recovering from a bug at the weekend, but should be available to start against Liverpool. So, on the plus side, no one new got injured at the weekend; on the minus side, there are still an impressive roster of first teamers out of action, with Doyle, Henry, Craddock, Mancienne and Mouyokolo still providing company in the treatment rooms to even more long term casualties Kightly and Guedioura.
Although I’d like to see someone more reliable play in place of Stearman, we don’t have that luxury, so let’s hope he avoids one of his frequent lapses of attention. And I mustn’t be unfair – all the defenders need to pick up their game – after a return to the team in a blaze of glory, Zubar has been shakey, and without someone solid like Craddock beside him Berra consistently gets left behind and resorts to shirt-tugging and other petty fouling that will continue to land him in hot water with referees.
I’d imagine the team will look rather like it did last week – hopefully with a return for Jarvis to the starting line up, all sent out with stern instruction not to play as badly as they did on Sunday. As they can’t get too much worse, that should get some positive reaction.
Zubar – Stearman – Berra – Elokobi
Hunt – Foley – Milijas – Jarvis
I’d like to see Flecher up front in place of Ward, given his impressive goals to appearances ratio, but will admit his impact has always been greatest off the bench – a very frustrating fact.
Despite all the doom and gloom following Sunday’s game, call me a hopeless optimist, but I could see us getting 1-1 from this one at worst. So far this season, we’ve generally performed best under the worst circumstances – our wins against Sunderland and Birmingham came at the high points of the injury crises, and our best performances have been against more fancied opponents, with notable endeavour against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United and, of course, a fine win against Man City.
A draw will do nothing for our league position and, depending on other results at the bottom later, could quite easily see us set futher adrift, but it is essential to at least see a good performance to set us up for any kind of fightback in the coming weeks.
Up the Wolves!