By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool’s failure to defeat Aston Villa was made worse on Monday, as Everton destroyed Sunderland 4-0. The Toffees are now four points ahead in the table, with the FA Cup semifinal looming this weekend. However, the Reds do have an opportunity to close the gap and still build up some semblance of momentum heading into that match. The club will have to get its act together against Blackburn Rovers, a club that is in the throes of the relegation battle.
The Reds have often been accused of being a “Robin Hood club.” This, of course, means that they give points to the poor, while stealing from the rich. On current form, this has absolutely been the case, and it is something that needs to be turned around. If not, it is obvious that many significant – and possibly drastic – changes will be on the horizon. The draw against Villa was a classic example of the club’s struggles, and showed it has a long way to go in order to return to the form it possessed in the past.
Liverpool will be completing this season in a little over one month. It will be the fourth since a top-four finish has been achieved. Granted, many turbulent incidents have occurred in that time, but it is coming to a head now. The club is only four points from 14th in the table, and is level on points with Fulham and Norwich City. Time is running out to finish strong this season. A win at Ewood Park can start the club on that journey.
The club will again see Doni in net, as Pepe Reina will be continuing his ban picked up during the loss to Newcastle. Doni was serviceable against Villa, but not having Reina between the posts leaves every Liverpool supporter slightly nervous. But what may help is the return of Daniel Agger, who could start after making a substitute appearance during the last match. If Agger and Martin Skrtel pair up in the center, it could help the club significantly, as Jamie Carragher’s partnership with Skrtel has left much to be desired.
While many would say that the midfield hasn’t clicked since Lucas’ injury earlier in the season, it has looked even more shocking in the absence of Charlie Adam – despite his several faults. If Jonjo Shelvey can start next to Steven Gerrard, it may help improve the overall situation. In addition, Maxi Rodriguez has been invisible. It is fairly obvious manager Kenny Dalglish doesn’t have him in his plans, but for him to not get the start either against Rovers, or later in the week against Everton, would be shocking. The club has had little activity on the wings in recent weeks, especially with wing back Glen Johnson still struggling to recover from his injury. In addition, it will be telling to see if Dalglish puts Dirk Kuyt back on the wing, a tactical move that has seemingly been abandoned.
Up front, Luis Suarez has looked helpless, despite scoring the vital equalizer against the Villains. No matter the striking partner(s), Suarez hasn’t had much help, even when playing well. This needs to change, especially if Liverpool plans to win a match at any point during the remainder of the season.
For Blackburn, Steve Kean’s club is currently on the brink of relegation. To make matters worse, attacker Anthony Modeste was sent-off during the loss against West Brom, and defender Martin Olsson is nursing a shoulder injury, and may not be fit for the clash against the Reds.
Despite this, the club has two very talented forwards in Junior Hoilett and Yakubu, and the two have combined for 21 goals this season.
It is vital for Liverpool to take advantage of the short-handed Lancashire club. However, like Wigan, QPR and Aston Villa, clubs that are fighting for relegation are known to battle hard. These sides have nothing to lose, and it has shown. What better club than Liverpool to know this, as it has dropped a massive number of points against the lesser Premier League clubs this season.
Blackburn v Liverpool
When: Tuesday, April 10th 1500 EST/ 2000 GMT
Where: Ewood Park, Blackburn
Premier League Table: Liverpool 8th (43 points), Aston Villa 18th (28 points)
Last Premier League Match: Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa, West Brom 3-0 Blackburn
Projected Blackburn Starting 11:
DEF: Givet, Dann, Orr, Hanley
MF: Dunn, Pedersen, Nzonzi, Lowe
FW: Hoilett, Yakubu
Subs from: Kean, Formica, Henley, Petrovic, Ms Olsson, Mn Olsson*, Goodwillie, Rochina
Projected Liverpool Starting 11:
DEF: Agger, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio
MF: Kuyt, Gerrard, Shelvey, Maxi
FW: Suarez, Carroll
Subs from: Jones, Enrique, Kelly*, Johnson*, Coates, Wilson, Coady, Wisdom, Spearing, Henderson, Downing, Bellamy, Eccleston, Sterling
*= Late Fitness Tests
Interact: What’s your final score prediction? What’s your predicted starting eleven? Comment below.