By Christopher Boulay
Liverpool returns home to begin a busy week in the Premier League, with the first opponent traveling up from West London. Fulham will face the Reds during the holiday week, with Liverpool looking to bounce back from a difficult loss against Aston Villa.
The Reds were shocked by the Birmingham-based strugglers last weekend, and it will be important to get all three points against the Cottagers, as the London side is only two points behind in the table.
Luckily for Liverpool, there are some positives to build on despite last week’s loss. Jose Enrique should be healthy enough to play on Saturday, while Nuri Sahin is also healthy after surgery on his broken nose. The club also received boosts from Raheem Sterling signing a five-year deal this week, as well as learning it will face Zenit St. Petersburg in the knockout stage of the Europa League.
While Liverpool will welcome some key players back into the fray this weekend, Fulham recently said farewell to some. Steve Sidwell will miss the match due to suspension, while backup goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is out with a knee injury. The club recalled David Stockdale from the final weeks of his loan at Hull in order to fill the void left by Etheridge’s absence.
Fulham has only won two of its last 10 matches in the league, which is a main reason why the club is 13th at the table. Liverpool has fared slightly better during the same stretch as it has four wins in that time, with three of these wins in the last six matches.
The holiday season is a busy time for every club, and manager Brendan Rodgers will likely see his squad’s lack of depth tested in the coming days. In addition to the match against Fulham, Liverpool must face Stoke City on Boxing Day, while the side heads to Loftus Road to take on Queens Park Rangers four days later. Maximum points from this stretch may be a difficult ask, but it could significantly boost Liverpool’s hopes of competing for Europe.
Former Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov is tied for top scorer for Fulham this season, along with Croatian forward Mladen Petric. Liverpool currently has a goal differential of zero, due to 23 goals scored and allowed in the league. The high level of goals conceded may foreshadow some issues for the squad against Fulham’s attack. Fulham will also look to have a better performance this weekend than during the club’s last match, as it lost 2-1 to QPR, giving the Hoops their first win of the campaign.
Liverpool v Fulham
When: Saturday, December 22, 1230 EST/1730 GMT
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Previous Premier League match: Liverpool 1-3 Aston Villa, QPR 2-1 Fulham
League Position 2011-12: Liverpool 12th (22 points), Fulham 13th (20 points)
Projected Fulham Starting 11
DEF: Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise
MID: Duff, Baird, Kacaniklic, Richardson
FW: Berbatov, Rodallega
Subs from: Stockdale, Kelly, Kasami, Senderos, Karagounis, Tavares, Petric, Dejagah, Frei
Projected Liverpool Starting 11
DEF: Enrique, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson
MID: Gerrard, Lucas, Allen
FW: Sterling, Suarez, Suso
Subs from: Jones, Flanagan, Wisdom, Coates, Carragher, Robinson, Cole, Sahin, , Downing, Morgan, Shelvey, Yesil
Interact: What’s your projected lineup and final score prediction? Comment below.