Liverpool v QPR @ Anfield 10th Dec 2011 1500 GMT

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Kenny Dalglish’s under-fire Reds looking for first win in five at Anfield

So where did it all go wrong? A week ago, LFC were potential world beaters after good results against the Arse, Chelski, Citeh and ManUre. This week it is all very different, after Liverpool lost to mid table Fulham.

In fact, the 5 games against various teams this month are probably a better indicator of LFC’s real potential to finish in the Champions League places, than results against the top 4. This is perhaps one of the most crucial runs of games as it is one of the easiest the Reds were set to face all season with weaker competition for five straight games until Newcastle at the end of the month. It also could see the Reds reach close to 40 points in the first half of the season as a points total of at least 67 is expected to be needed to lock down a fourth place finish and a Champions League place.

(By the way, all those of you relishing Utd and City getting knocked out possibly do not realise that it will effect the number of places England receive from now on. Although there is a lag effect, as results are averaged over the most recent 5 years, it could mean in 2 years, England only has 3 Champions League places, which will mean it will be even harder to qualify!)

The fact is, 3 points against Fulham are worth exactly the same as 3 points against the top teams, and a lot easier to obtain. It is a lesson we should remember from Blackburn in 1995, (managed by King Kenny), who had an awful record against the top teams, but thrashed everyone else, and still won the league.

So now we have 5 games, 3 at home, against teams that we should be beating if we have true aspirations of Champions League. If we don’t do well, a rough Jan could be ahead with 3 games against Citeh alone!
But if we manage to win all 5, which should be expected and is certainly possible, we could witness a slow climb back into contention, just as Arsenal have done since their 8-2 loss to ManUre. And winning should be all they are thinking about, with several off field distractions, including FA charges for a one fingered salute, and the second for failing to control players after the red card was shown to Spearing.

Which leads us to team selection and tactics, factoring in that Neil Warnock prefers a back 5 when playing away, so LFC will need to be more creative and ruthless in goal scoring opportunities, and with the enforced absences, with Gerrard, Lucas and Spearing unavailable, the choices in midfield are more complicated than you would imagine.

Henderson is naturally more gifted in central midfield, but has not been trusted there so far. Now would seem a good time to give him a chance. But this depends on whether Kenny opts for 3, 4 or 5 in midfield. In a 3 man midfield, he will probably be on the right wing. In a 4 man midfield, he will probably be paired in the centre with Adam, and Kuyt out on the right. In a 5 man midfield, it probably depends on who partners Suarez up front.

A lot of the decision of which formation to use will depend on whether Carroll will be entrusted to lead the line with Luis. Although there is a current wave of displeasure towards Andy, I expect he will be included for several reasons.
1) with a 5 man defence to beat, LFC will need every goal scoring outlet
2) Carroll takes a lot of the fouls that would otherwise go to Suarez, thus taking some of the pressure of Luis.
3) Dalglish is very loyal and will give him every chance to gain experience and confidence

However, I think, along with many other Red commentators, that for LFC to get the best result, we need to give Luis the best support, and that is most likely to happen with Bellamy up front, and Kuyt and Maxi supporting. So I hope to see a 4-4-2 /2-5-3 hybrid with Skrtel, Agger, Johnson, Enrique, Kuyt, Henderson, Adams, Maxi, Suarez, Carroll

Interesting fact…QPR last won at Anfield in March 1991 when a Les Ferdinand goal helped them to a 3-1 win just weeks after Kenny Dalglish had left his role as Reds’ manager.

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