You've got a big fat head, you've got a big fat head! And there isn't much in it.
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Makem Matadors: Roker Report
Ah, the post I've waited weeks to write, and you to read. Finally, after all the silly transfer stuff, the waiting to be rid of dead weight, the minutes we wasted watching Christian Poulsen and Joe Cole, the endless Alberto Aquilani situation, the torturous Gold Cup campaign, the thoroughly underwhelming Copa America, the Gerrard injury circus, reading article after article about Cesc Fucking Fabregas and Samir Fucking Nasri, being bombarded with the seemingly endless tour of the US by Scum, we finally have an actual Premier League football match to talk about. Who's excited?
So, where to start? Let's go with who won't be playing. That would be Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, and Raul Meireles. While Johnson faces a late fitness test and could conceivably play, it wouldn't make too much sense to chuck him out there when both Martin Kelly and John Flanagan have plenty of preseason minutes under their belt and are completely fit. Especially with Arsenal waiting the following week. Best to save him. As for Meireles, he played for Portugal on Wednesday, and I don't know if he's hurt or not or getting tied up in this Aquilani stuff or honestly what's going on. But considering he didn't appear for Liverpool in any friendly, I'm guessing he's not getting a look in this one either.
So who will play. We know Pepe Reina will. The backline pretty much picks itself after Johnson's injury, with Kelly-Carragher-Agger-Aurelio getting another run out after the Valencia game. Though Jose Enrique has also had a full preseason, it's unlikely you'd ask him to fit in after just one training session with the team. And with Aurelio in the five-minute span where he's actually healthy, you might as well take advantage.
Midfield is where we can have some fun guessing what will go on. With Lucas getting the last half hour against Valencia, you could take that to assume that was a trial run for a full start on the opening day. We know Charlie Adam will be next to that, whether it's Lucas or Jay Spearing. In front of that? Well, Stewart Downing is a pretty safe bet. If you want to go the conservative route, you'd probably say it's Kuyt on the right and then Henderson in the middle -- though that could swap -- behind Andy Carroll. But I don't see that. I'm guessing Aquilani makes the start with Kuyt on the right, and Luis Suarez first off the bench. That's just my guess though.
As for Sunderland, they've had a bit of a makeover this summer. They brought in some things Sir Alex left in the dumpster behind Carrington, signing Jonn O'Shea and Wes Brown. O'Shea is hurt, and Sunderland fans will soon hope that Brown is. They also raided the Birmingham closet, adding Sebastien Larsson, Craig Gardner, and David Vaughn, because when you're looking to improve it's always a good idea to take players from a side that just got relegated by scoring like seven goals all season.
There's some danger here, though. Any skilled striker with pace is something that Liverpool could struggle with, especially with Carragher in the side. Asamoah Gyan is just that, with blistering pace and a pretty lethal finish at times. Stephane Sessegnon showed a pretty elegant style at times last season, and he'll play behind Gyan in a five-man midfield, most likely.
For some reason, Steve Bruce always seems to give us fits, no matter what side he is coaching. This is strange, because I'm fairly well convinced that he doesn't have a clue what he's doing. He's never seen a side get above 10th, and his teams have a habit of falling apart in the latter half of the year. If Bruce had played for say, Leeds United instead of the Manchester one, I doubt anyone would have ever hired him.
It's the opening day of the season, those ho-hum (at best) preseason performances don't matter now. I fully expect Liverpool to come out with some fire and get at Sunderland from the off. Hopefully it'll be an enjoyable occasion.
As for what's going on here, there'll be a gamethread launched a half hour before kickoff. And because it's at a decent hour, I'll be tweeting from anfieldasylum all game. Join either or both.