The trip to Stamford Bridge got plenty of attention last weekend, but Liverpool's home date with Wigan tomorrow holds plenty of importance of its own as Brendan Rodgers' squad look for just their second league win at Anfield this season.
Anfield as a fortress has been a tough sell this season, even if Brendan Rodgers' heart is in the right place. It's been a long time since any opposition arrived and supporters felt complete confidence in the result; sporadic losses, underwhelming draws, and generally poor performances against "weaker" opposition have all conspired to sabotage the sense of safety that was once felt when Liverpool lined up at home, leaving matches like tomorrow's unsettling.
They're certainly capable of hoarding points in front of home supporters, as the displays we've seen at Anfield have largely been encouraging rather than completely dour. Momentary--and sometimes extended--lapses have cost Liverpool dearly, and at home they haven't been immune. But there's at least indicators that, if they can only find a goal or two, they'll be off and running.
Trouble is that they will be trying to get off and running against Wigan, a side who's given them absolute fits over the past few seasons. Liverpool are winless since a 2-1 victory back in December of 2009, and the last time these two teams met, Wigan came away from Anfield with all three points, getting a winner from Gary Caldwell midway through the second half against a poor Liverpool side.
The visitors enter tomorrow just a point off Liverpool in 14th place, winners of two of their last three in league, including a 1-0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane. Roberto Martinez has stuck with a fairly consistent squad to this point despite a rough start; Ali Al-Habsi, Emerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell, Ivan Ramis, James McCarthy, Maynor Figueroa, and Shaun Maloney have each started all eleven league matches. Franco DiSanto will likely feature up front and has started nine matches so far, and he'll be aided by Arouna Kone, who's the team's leading goalscorer and has been in the eleven for all but one of Wigan's league fixtures.
Johnson Skrtel Agger Enrique
Suso Suarez Sterling
There's a handful of newer questions about fitness heading into tomorrow, as Martin Skrtel, Jonjo Shelvey, Daniel Agger, and Pepe Reina are all somewhere in the ether, with only the long-term absences of Martin Kelly, Fabio Borini, and Lucas confirmed.
For about the fourth time running I'll pick Reina in goal, even if it might be too soon. Or too late. After Sunday, though, you'd guess that there's a spot for both Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, and with the Spaniard's sojourn further forward not likely to be repeated, I'll guess that Andre Wisdom is sacrificed to give Johnson his original spot and Enrique at left back. Both Skrtel and Agger should be back, as the former has had time to recover from the illness that kept him out against Chelsea and the latter hopefully available despite opting out of international duty with a groin injury that should have seen him sidelined last weekend.
I don't know that I much prefer the same three that started in London, but I'm also not sure if Rodgers will change it up too much. Given the options I'd like to see Joe Allen, Jordan Henderson, and Suso start, but the personnel on Sunday might be what we get again. Shelvey's not quite fit and has faded lately, Henderson was left out completely last weekend, and Suso's either going to be a substitute again or start in a wide role opposite Raheem Sterling.
That's what I'll pick in lieu of a start for Oussama Assiadi or Stewart Downing; Suso, Luis Suarez, and Sterling seems likely enough to give Wigan problems, and hopefully the Moroccan is either fit or favored enough to see minutes off the bench. The attack is almost solely about Suarez at this point, and depending on the day, that's either inspiring and terrifying.
The importance of matches in November is prone to overstatement, but with Liverpool struggling so badly to gather points, it doesn't feel overly dramatic to state that tomorrow's as much of a must-win as you can have at this time of year. At Anfield against a supposedly weaker side, these are the types of matches Liverpool should be winning. Problem is that they haven't this season, and it's a general trend that the club have been unable to turn around for years. Tomorrow wouldn't be a bad time to start to do that.
Kickoff is set for 3:00PM GMT/10:00AM EST, and there's no live viewing options stateside or in the UK. If you're in the US and have FoxSoccer2Go that looks like the only way to catch it as it's happening; Fox Soccer Channel will be running the replay at 2:30PM EST. We'll have the matchday thread up early tomorrow along with any legal ways to watch, and the team sheets will be updated around an hour before kickoff.
Hope to see you around, and that the weekend gets off on the right foot.